Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 31

The Daily Numbers: 380 days in jail, what former Penn-Delco School Board president Keith Crego likely will do for the misdeeds that left the district in a state of upheaval.

15,000 dollar fine for the man a prosecutor called “king of the Penn-Delco castle.”

50 million dollars in state funds that will be earmarked for a project to build a professional sports stadium in Chester this afternoon.

16 as in the 16th and newest Major League Soccer franchise, the team that backers hope will play in that stadium under the Commodore Barry Bridge.

11 year-old boy who took the stand in a Media courtroom yesterday and described the events that led to a fatal stabbing involving a 13-year-old plunging a knife into his 16-year-old brother in a dispute over a video game.

6 years after his death, the memory of slain Upper Darby Police Officer Dennis McNamara remains. Friends gathered in his memory at Arlington Cemetery last night.

10 bucks, what it’s costing to get into some first-run movie theaters in the county. No wonder Netflix is so popular.

3.50 a gallon, what some experts say we’ll be forking over for gasoline by June. Gee, driving to the movies, catching a flick and getting some snacks might require a second mortgage.

20 people who are alleging brutality after Philadelphia police broke up a party Saturday night in Kensington. One person was arrested.

2 people shot, including a pregnant woman who was killed, in Frankford early this morning. The unborn baby is fighting for life.

1 man gunned down outside a Kmart in Northeast Philly Wednesday night. Not a good start to the Michael Nutter war on crime in the city.

6 percent dip in income for software giant SAP, which has their North American HQ out in Newtown Square.

700,000 bucks, annual salary for fired local TV anchor Alycia Lane, who is now filing papers indicating she will sue her old station, KYW-TV3.

10,000 dollars, what a Scranton man stands accused of offering a man to stab the Lackawanna County district attorney.

70, age of man who pleaded guilty to robbing a bank in Erie County.

156 billion calories, the amount likely to be consumed by Americans during Sunday’s Super Bowl festivities.

43 point win for the Sixers as they put a serious hurting on the Milwaukee Bucks at the Wachovia Center last night.

3 straight losses for Villanova men’s hoops. They fell on the road in Pittsburgh last night.

23 to 17, the margin by which Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress says his team will topple the mighty Patriots Sunday.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
What does it tell us when the most exciting thing about Super Bowl weekend is Wing Bowl?

I Don’t Get It: We’ve now had two incidents involving fatalities that are believed to have their roots in disputes involving video games. How exactly does that happen?


Today’s Upper: Bring on the Sons of Ben. Looks like pro soccer is coming to Chester. And sooner rather than later.


Quote Box: “I am speechless and disgusted.”

-- Penn-Delco resident Josephine Hamilton, after hearing of the plea deal for former board President Keith Crego.

A sad finale in Penn-Delco

It is over.

The nightmare that has enveloped the Penn-Delco School District for more than a year ended not with a bang, but with a whimper in a Delaware County courtroom.

Keith Crego, the former Aston GOP hotshot who rose to president of the Penn-Delco School Board, entered a guilty plea to a slew of charges including bribery, theft and racketeering.

Crego’s name once was attached to the meeting room where the school board conducted its meetings. Now it will simply be attached to one of the more bizarre school corruption cases in county history.

The legal process ended yesterday, but the questions remain. Lots of them.
For the actions that turned a school district upside-down for a year, and left a long list of lives in disarray, Crego was sentenced to a year in jail, 100 hours of community service, a $15,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.

“I made bad choices,” Crego told the court. Ya think?

“It is time to move on and let the district heal,” Crego commented.

That’s not exactly going down all that well back in the district.

Residents are stunned, seemingly both that many of their questions will likely now never be answered, and at the plea deal Crego cut in court yesterday.

A “disgrace” and “slap in the face” are a recurring theme.

Residents saw their school district dragged through the mud. And they knew who was responsible. They wanted their pound of flesh from the man a prosecutor called “king of the Penn-Delco castle.”

The peasants were storming the castle. Maybe they should have stormed the courthouse instead.

They point out that Crego, who faced the possibility of hundreds of years in jail on all the charges facing him, escaped with just a year behind bars.

His sentence is not all that dissimilar to one handed out to former Superintendent Leslye Abrutyn, who pleaded guilty earlier to charges of taking part in Crego’s scheme in creating the Quick Start Pre-School company, getting them set up to handle pre- and full-day child care in the district, then watching the money flow in.

Abrutyn was able to avoid jail time, she’ll serve her year with a month of electronic home monitoring and probation.

To me, the more obvious missing exclamation point is the same one I’ve been asking for months.

How exactly did Crego manage to pull this off? How did he fool so many people? How was he able to dupe someone, in Abrutyn, who seemed to have so much on the ball, and get her to go along with his scheme. And how was he able to do all this for as long as he did without anyone blowing the whistle?

Now we’ll likely never know. Yesterday, the Keith Crego and Penn-Delco saga came to a meek, sad end in a Delaware County courtroom.

The healing process, fixing the damage he left behind, is likely going to take a lot longer.

A huge day for Chester

Something almost beyond belief is going to happen this afternoon.

First off, it is going to happen in Chester.

Second, a Democratic governor and Republican state senator will stand side by side and announce an agreement to chip in $45 million in state funding to build a stadium not far from where they are preening for the cameras on the waterfront.

That stadium in turn is going to be used to lure a Major League Soccer franchise to play its games in Chester.

We’ll have more thoughts on this tomorrow.

For now, we’re just trying to wipe the drool from our chins.

Yes, we were skeptical. Just as we were the first time we heard of the possibility of a horse-racing facility being built in Chester.

That turned into Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.

Now, just about a good horse race length down Route 291, a stadium likely soon will rise.

We can only mimic the words of the immortal Richie Ashburn: “Hard to believe, Harry.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 30

The Daily Numbers: 400 million dollar development that could be taking root on the Chester waterfront, punctuated by a soccer stadium and Major League soccer franchise.

20,000 seats in that proposed stadium, which would be located in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

1,300 bucks, believed to be the daunting tuition hike for parents with children attending Our Lady of Peace School in Milmont Park, Ridley Township.

63, age of Norwood code enforcement officer Harry McDevitt, who yesterday admitted in court that he sexually assaulted a health aide he had hired to help care for his ailing wife. The nurse was 28.

3 police officers lauded as heroes by County Council Tuesday for their roles in rescuing a disabled man from his burning home on Christmas Day in Morton.

6,000 Philadelphia police officers who will gather this morning at the Wachovia Center to hear their new boss, Commissioner Charles Ramseym, outline his plan to attack the city’s crime emergency.

2 teens pulled from an icy pond in Honey Brook after they broke through the thin ice. They were playing pond hockey when two went through a thin section while chasing the puck. They were pulled to safety by a man with a rope.

2 seals at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J. They’re recovering from a shark attack off the Jersey Shore.

27 employees getting pink slips at Neose Technologies Inc. in Horsham.

115 workers who could be getting laid off by famous Philly baker Amoroso’s.

2 teens, both from the Chester County Main Line, now charged in the brutal beating of a worker at Geno’s Steaks in South Philly.

1 more challenger lining up to get a piece of state Sen. Vince Fumo. Labor leader John Dougherty of Local 98 of the electricians’ union said he will challenge Fumo in the Democratic primary.

600,000 properties that will be getting a break on school taxes in a move approved by the state House yesterday. The funds will come from slot machine revenues.

10 age of boy locked in a feces-filled dog crate by his mother in Washington, in southwestern Pennsylvania. He apparently had been spilling his drinks.

4 prospects being shipped by the Mets to the Twins in exchange for the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana.

1 questionable overtime goal that led to a win for the Flyers last night over the Kings. The puck went in off Scott Hartnell’s skate as he drove to the net. It was ruled accidental and the goal counted.

14 point lead that disappeared for the Marple Newtown boys team last night as they fell to Conestoga, 57-52.

750,000 bucks, what an arbitration panel ruled Terrell Owens still owes the Eagles as a result of their nasty split in 2005.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
One more reason to hate the Mets. Johan Santana. That’s what’s referred to as an ace.

I Don’t Get It: A man in Philadelphia was convicted Tuesday of the murder of his 17-month-old daughter. Her offense? She apparently kicked out the plug on his Xbox game. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Heck of a week for state Sen. Dominic Pileggi. He apparently has been successful in getting funding for the Chester stadium. And he’s also pushing a bill to ban those pesky robo-calls from political candidates that hound people at home.


Quote Box: “Our whole school is going to fight it. I think it’s disgraceful. It’s like they’re shutting the door on my children.”

-- Lori Drass, Ridley Park mom and parent of kids in Our Lady of Peace School, on a possible steep tuition hike.

Boom times in Chester

Chester is about to take “one giant leap” closer to becoming a major league town.

As reported in today’s Daily Times, a deal is expected to be announced Thursday securing the final piece of a funding puzzle to build a stadium on the Chester waterfront. That in turn will be used to lure a Major League Soccer franchise to the city, providing a huge boost in the city’s effort to turn around its struggling fortunes.

It is expected the state will sign off on a deal to kick in $45 million to the $115 million project. Delaware County already is on board for a $30 million stake, in exchange for owning the stadium and ground where it will sit.

With the funding in place, the Chester site is expected to separate from the pack as the frontrunner for an MLS expansion franchise. The city proposal has been running neck and neck with St. Louis. The league has indicated it wanted to make its decision by Jan. 31.

Coincidentally, that’s when the press conference announcing the state funding for the project also is likely to take place.

The $115 million stadium project has been the brainchild of New York-based iStar Financial hotshot Jay Sugarman, along with James Nevels of the Swarthmore Group, and developers Robert Puccini and David Pollin.

It’s that last dynamic duo who hold a big chunk of the allure tied to this project. They run the Buccini/Pollin Group. Their vision is not just for a stadium, but instead using the sports palace as the centerpiece of a $400 million development of shops, retail outlets, restaurants and new housing that would become a huge new engine in the economic boom taking place on the Chester waterfront.

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester, who voiced early opposition to the use of state funds for the project in a city that does not have a major supermarket, indicated yesterday that funding for some of those community projects he has pushed for could be included in the plan.

State Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, the former mayor turned state Senate power broker, has been the moving force in Harrisburg behind the effort to raise the debt ceiling, thus clearing the way for the $45 million. Yesterday Pileggi was not talking about a possible breakthrough on the state funding issue.

But Pileggi also has been clear that it’s never been his vision to simply plop a stadium down under the Commodore Barry Bridge. Instead Pileggi is interested in the total redevelopment of the Chester waterfront.

It looks like that is about to happen.

And Chester, for years struggling to reverse decades of decline, too often the butt of jokes and ridicule, even by many in its own county, will then be called something else.

A Major League town.

The team to beat

The “Team to Beat” just became the second best team in the NL East.
You remember Jimmy Rollins’ loud, proud statement last winter about the Phils being ready to step up and grab the mantle of division favorite.

So it took them all season to finally overtake the Mets. They did it, aided in no small part by an all-time “El Foldo” by the New Yorkers. The Phils won the NL East, only to be banished from the playoffs by those upstart Colorado Rockies.

Just yesterday Phils fans were rejoicing in the signing of free agent third baseman Pedro Feliz, and his big bat.

The glow lasted less than a day.

That’s because late yesterday afternoon, the hated Gothams trumped the Phils – and all of baseball – by inking the prize catch of the free agent market.

That would be one Johan Santana, a certified ace left-hander. All Santana has done in his career is compile the best record of any starting pitcher in baseball. That would be 93-44. He won Cy Young Awards in 2004 and 2006. Gee, did he have a bad year in 2005? Not exactly. He finished third in the voting. Last season he was fifth.

How dominating has the lefthander been? Over the past five years, he’s put together these gaudy stats: 82 wins with a 2.92 ERA and 1,152 strikeouts, all while pitching in the hitter-friendly, DH-dominated American League. Those numbers are tops in the AL.

Santana also is a money pitcher. He does his best work in the second half of the season, when each game takes on more stature.

There is another troubling aspect for the Phils. He’s a lefty, who routinely terrorizes left-handed hitters. That spells trouble for Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and the rest of the Phils’ lineup.

Yes, the Phils are the defending NL East champions. But they likely are now the second-best team in the division.

Buckle your seat belts. The Phillies-Mets heated rivalry just turned into a raging bonfire.

The real Comeback Kid

Bill and Hillary Clinton have been reveling in their stature as the “Comeback Kids.”
First it was Bill, elevated from his political death bed back in 1992 in New Hampshire. Then the act was repeated this year by his wife, who rallied after a stinging defeat in the Iowa caucuses.

So what, exactly, are we to make of one John McCain?

Just last summer, team McCain was running on fumes, running out of money, firing staff. It appeared that the senator from Arizona’s bid to win the Republican presidential nomination was in a death spiral.

Today, fresh off a resounding win in the Florida primary, he’s the clear front-runner. One-time leader Rudy Giuliani was drubbed and likely will withdraw today, giving his endorsement to McCain on the way out the door.

It now comes down to McCain and Mitt Romey for the Republican crown.

Here’s a prediction. McCain is the nominee; Fred Thompson is his vice president. They beat either Hillary or Sen. Barack Obama.

You heard it here first.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 29

The Daily Numbers: 2 brand new high schools to be built by the Philadelphia Archdiocese in Montgomery and Bucks counties.

65 million bucks, the price tag for each of the new schools.

800 people who gathered last night to honor new Cardinal John P. Foley, a native of Sharon Hill, as he was inducted into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Hall of Fame. Also tapped was longtime Delco educator Robert Palestini.

10 miles, Cardinal Justin Rigali stated his position that he wants a high school within that diameter for every Catholic in the archdiocese.

6 students who suffered minor injuries when a bus was involved in a five-vehicle collision in the Lawncrest section of Philadelphia Monday afternoon.

10:30 this morning, that’s the time that striking teachers in Downingtown say they will start manning the picket lines.

12,000 students who could sleep in this morning because their classes were canceled in Downingtown.

52,000 bucks delivered to Manoa Fire Co. in Havertown yesterday by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, in a grant for first responders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

10 million dollar tax scam that led to convictions for 3 people guilty of ripping off the IRS after a trial in Philly.

28 billion dollars, the final selling price of Harrah’s gambling empire to two private equity firms. That includes a half-stake in the Chester track and slots parlor.

40 percent plunge in Sears profits, which led to the ouster of its president and chief executive officer yesterday.

13 percent hike in the wholesale price announced yesterday by Hershey’s for many of its famous chocolate bars. Things aren’t so sweet in the candy biz either.

16 percent jump in sales for chemical giant Rohm and Haas. At least someone is doing OK.

472 days, that’s how long it took Aker Philadelphia Shipyard to get its eighth shipbuilding project into the water.

21 home runs, the average over the last four years for Phils new third baseman Pedro Feliz.

2 years and 8.5 million bucks, what Feliz will get to anchor the hot corner, where the Phils struggled last year.

77 age of Lois Gilmore, who overcame depression, cancer and a stroke, all as she remained one of the top distance runners in the region. Last night she was honored as the Most Courageous Athlete by the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association.

1,000 points as well as 1,000 rebounds for Sun Valley star girls hoops player Sami Borcky.

2 games out of a playoff spot. That’s where the Sixers sit at 11 games under .500.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Give Pat Gillick and the Phillies credit. They realized their shortcomings at third base and addressed it by signing free agent Pedro Feliz. One more starting pitcher and this group will be ready to go to war with anyone. Can you say Kyle Lohse?

I Don’t Get It: A Pottstown man already awaiting trial on drug offenses has now been charged with first-degree murder. The victim? His cousin.


Today’s Upper: Once again they are talking about property tax reform in Harrisburg. A little more action, a little less talk, folks.


Quote Box: “As I watched President Bush tonight, I thought about ‘what might have been,’ for America if the president had been willing to do what America does best: compromise, under thoughtful leadership.”

-- U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, reacting to the president’s final State of the Union address.

The bottom line on archdiocesan schools

In a lot of ways, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is unlike any other business. After all, the archdiocese ministers to the spiritual health of Catholics in the five-county Philadelphia region.

That makes their “product” a very special connection; it’s a central part of the faithful’s lives that most businesses simply can’t claim.

But in some ways, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is exactly like any other business. That’s especially true when it comes to the archdiocesan schools.

Yes, they also play a vital role in the spiritual growth of their students. But there is also a business element that cannot be denied.

On that business side, as in every other business, there are two sides to the ledger: expenses and revenue.

In order to maximize revenue, the archdiocese is doing what just about every business does, they are going where their customers are.

Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali kicked off Catholic Schools Week Monday morning by striding to the microphone and announcing the archdiocese would build two new high schools. Neither will be in Delaware County. There are currently four archdiocesan high school in the county.

No, the new facilities will be built in the booming suburban areas of Montgomery and Bucks counties.

A new school will replace St. Pius X in Pottstown and Kennedy-Kenrick, itself formed by a merger of two former high schools, in Norristown. The new school will be built in Royersford.

Likewise, the current Lansdale Catholic will be replaced by a new school to be built in Hilltown, Bucks County.

The last time the archdiocese built a new school, it was in the exploding Chester County region, when Bishop Shanahan was moved out of its West Chester site to a much bigger new home in Downingtown. That was in 1998.

Cardinal Rigali spent a lot of time detailing how the archdiocese is not giving up its mission of Catholic education.

He did not spend as much time talking about the tuition hike enacted for Catholic high schools. It will cost families another $240 to send their children to one of the archdiocesan high schools next year. That brings total annual tuition to painfully close to $5,000 a year.

Then there’s the matter of the archdiocesan elementary schools, many of which continue to struggle in Delaware County, in particular the older, eastern end of the county.

St. Cyril of Alexandria School in East Lansdowne, which was saved when the community rallied around the wish of one of its students, Tommy Geromichalos, is back on the critical list.

So is Our Lady of Peace School in Milmont Park, Ridley Township.

It’s the same old story. Costs are increasing. Enrollment is sliding. Parishes are making hard decisions concerning their schools.

Already the pastor at St. Cyril has again recommended to the archdiocese that the school be closed. The final decision will be up to Cardinal Rigali.

At OLP, families are likely looking at a serious boost in tuition if enough money cannot be raised to keep the doors open.

It’s simple arithmetic. And in too many cases for Delco’s archdiocesan schools, the numbers simply aren’t adding up.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Jan. 28

The Daily Numbers: 240 bucks more, what it will cost to attend one of the archdiocesan Catholic high schools next year.

1,000 percent, how much tuition has gone up in the archdiocese in the past 5 years.

2 Democrats who are looking to take on state Rep. Nick Micozzie for his 163rd state House seat.

12,000 students who could be out in the cold starting tomorrow morning in the Downingtown School District in Chester County. Teachers could go on strike at midnight.

4 story fall from a parking garage at an Atlantic City casino that proved fatal for a college senior at Stockton University.

3,000 people who showed up at a fund-raiser Saturday night to benefit the family of slain Philadelphia police Officer Chuck Cassidy.

1 person killed early this morning in a crash on I-95 in Delaware at the Delaware 1 interchange.

19, age of Devon man charged in the brutal beating of an employee of Pat’s Steaks in South Philly.

150 bucks, what it can cost you to get your car back after it’s been towed in Philly. A councilman wants to mandate that tow truck firms accept credit cards, instead of demanding cash to get your car back.

677 students at Penn State from 1999 to 2004 whose personal info was on a laptop computer that was stolen from a faculty member.

100 students at Villanova who are battling a gastrointestinal illness linked to the novovirus.

12 people who are our of their homes after flames raced through downtown Pottstown buildings over the weekend. 20 fire companies battled the flames. No injuries were reported.

15 million bucks that the state’s student-loan agency PHEAA may be required to repay by the feds because of what they claim are overcharges on loan subsidies.

1 million dollars bail for man in Hatboro charged with trying to kill a woman he did not know as she was walking home along York Road.

89.88 the price for a barrel of crude oil on electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That’s down 83 cents.

4,300 bucks, that’s the going rate for a ticket to Sunday’s Super Bowl. The face value of the ticket is $700-$900.

62 career wins for golf superstar Tiger Woods, after he rolled to the title in his tour debut at the Buick Invitational in San Diego. It’s the fourth straight year he’s won the tournament. The tour will be back there in June for the U.S. Open. Not good news for those not named Tiger.

2 as in second place for Chester County native Johnny Weir at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

0 pro athletic events for Philly yesterday or today.

6 days of hype before they get around to kicking off the Super Bowl next Sunday night in Glendale, Az.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
These are pretty lean times for local sports fans. Nothing doing on the pro side. Maybe the best story over the next month or so will be the Chester Clippers’ hunt for another boys state hoops title.

I Don’t Get It: A home invasion in Philadelphia wound up with a resident being tortured and killed. Only problem was the real target actually lived a few doors away.


Today’s Upper: Thumb’s up to the PIAA for quickly ruling that Strath Haven athlete Bobby Calderoni can play on the varsity soccer team next year. Bobby has cerebral palsy and uses crutches. A complaint was filed after a player on an opposing team suffered an injury after tripping over the crutches.


Quote Box: “In many places, the U.S. is called the police of the world. Where there’s evil, we fight it.”

-- Media Police Officer Edward Fullmer, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves and is fresh off a tour of duty in Iraq.

Another miracle needed

It’s not the reading or writing that’s causing problems for so many local archdiocesan schools, it’s the arithmetic.

No, that’s not to say that students are not learning how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. That solid tradition continues unabated.

But what continues to hang over so many local archdiocesan schools are two other sets of numbers they are all too familiar with: Rising costs and shrinking enrollment.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is in the process of celebrating Catholic Schools Week, honoring the long legacy of parochial school education, one that has an especially proud history here in Delaware County.

But in the eastern end of the county, where that tradition started, the numbers continue to be daunting.

At St. Cyril of Alexandria School in East Lansdowne, they are fresh off one miracle, now they might be looking for another.

The story of Tommy Geromichalos is familiar to anyone who reads this newspaper. We spent a lot of time and effort last year chronicling Tommy’s wish. He wanted to be able to graduate from St. Cyril’s with his class. Tommy, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, wrote a letter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

His dedication to St. Cyril’s galvanized the community and sparked the Save Our School Committee. The result? The group raised an astounding $400,000.

Unfortunately, the problems dogging St. Cyril’s and many other older archdiocesan schools in the eastern end of the county have not gone away.

The pastor at St. Cyril’s, the Rev. Edward Kearns, said this week he has once again recommended to the archdiocese that the school be closed. The rising costs tied to the school are proving to be a drain on the entire parish.

The decision, much as it did the last time around, now lies with Cardinal Justice Rigali.

He’s expected to make a major announcement tied to Catholic education in the archdiocese this morning.

One thing he likely will touch on will not come as good news to families with students in archdiocesan high schools, such as Cardinal O’Hara, Archbishop Carroll, Monsignor Bonner, and Archbishop Prendergast. Tuition is going up.

Families will have to fork over another $240 for tuition next year. That means the annual tab for archdiocesan high schools will be $4,860. In the last five years, tuition has gone up about 1,000 percent.

I don’t know if Tommy Geromichalos has any more miracles up his sleeve.
St. Cyril’s, along with a lot of parochial schools and families in Delaware County, might just need another one.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 25

The Daily Numbers: 6 people busted in a theft ring that specialized in breaking into unlocked cars and ripping off any of the myriad high-tech gagdets inside, such as laptops, cell phones, Blackberries, GPS systems.

39 age of the woman who, along with her new hubby, 19, are believed to be the leaders of the ring.

4 students from Paxon Hollow Middle School who police say were recruited to take part in the series of heists.

100 thefts believed to be the work of the kiddie car theft gang.

30 feet high, description of raging flames that destroyed the Hubcap Jack business on Route 322 in Upper Chichester early Thursday morning.

1.25 million dollars headed to Cheyney University for infrastructure improvements on their science and technology programs. Congressman Joe Sestak will present a check today.

285,000 dollars recovered by Southeast Delco School District from their insurance carrier to cover losses from an employee who was ripping off funds from the cafeteria.

40 students in Allentown in hot water for trading some nude pix of classmates on their cell phones.

550 million dollar SugarHouse casino on the Philly waterfront now on hold after new Mayor Michael Nutter spiked their license to build on the chosen site.

850 claims filed against Pure Weight Loss center, formerly known as L.A. Weight Loss, after they closed their doors without notice. The state attorney general is now suing the national chain.

20 children who have died of abuse or neglect after being brought to the attention of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. A state panel says things are getting better, but the state agency still has far to go.

600 bucks for singles, and $1,200 for married couples, plus $300 for each child, under the new economic stimulus program OK’d in D.C. yesterday. How much you actually get also depends on how much you earn.

4 juveniles believed to be among 6 suspects in the brutal slashing of two students at a bus stop in West Philadelphia.

350 jobs being axed by Ikon Office Solutions. The supplier of copy machines and supplies is headquartered in Malvern.

12 people being charged in a scam involving bogus driver’s licenses in Philadelphia. Another 22 people had been charged back in December.

48 radio stations being sold by industry leader Clear Channel Communications Inc.

100 career points for Flyer R.J. Umberger, who socred last night as the Flyers topped the Pens, 4-3. It was his 200th game.

1,000 points, the magic plateau being approached by two Garnet Valley hoop stars, Tim Lang and J.J. Rapczynski.

2 straight very tough losses for the Penncrest wrestling team, which fell, 28-23, to Pennsbury last night.

20 of February, that’s the date for the arbitration hearing between the Phillies and slugger Ryan Howard. They can of course cut a deal any time before then.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Tiger Woods is back on TV. The PGA Tour season has now officially begun. Is there a more mesmerizing athlete in sports?

I Don’t Get It: Yeah, let’s shell out $10 for a ticket then get physically ill by the herky-jerky hand-held camera shots used in the movie box office king “Cloverfield.” Sounds like a good time to me. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Cheyney University will get a much-needed boost today when Congressman Joe Sestak shows up with a check for $1.25 million to help their science and technology programs.


Quote Box: “It was a crime of opportunity.”

-- Delco D.A. Mike Green, on the series of thefts of high-tech gadgets from unlocked cars.

Chartering a new course in Chester Upland?

It’s going to take someone with the wisdom of Solomon, or a hell of a lot more than I have, to solve the Chester Upland School District conundrum.

It’s no secret that Chester Upland has struggled for years, too often failing its students with too little funds, too little staff, too little supplies and too little hope for the future.

So bad was the situation that the state assumed control of the district, first with a Control Board and more recently with an Empowerment Board.

Students and parents were in dire need of an alternative to dooming their kids to the steep odds stacked against them in these failing schools.

Enter charter schools. Some see them as part of the solution. Others point to them as part of the problem.

Here’s why: These private facilities are funded in large part by public money. Funds that could be used in the district schools.

With more and more students fleeing district schools and seeking some kind of salvation in charters, the Chester Upland Empowerment Board looked to reverse a previous ruling by the Board of Control and put a cap on charter enrollments. Parents and the charter schools went to court. And won.

The district appealed. Last week Commonwealth Court rejected their argument, and backed the ruling knocking down the cap on enrollments.

Right now Chester Upland has 4,022 students enrolled in district classrooms, and 2,720 in charter schools. If the ruling stands, another 1,000 kids could head for the charters.

There are those who believe that the continued growth of the charters could threaten the existence of the school district. And there are those who believe that would not necessarily be a bad thing.

In the meantime, too many kids in Chester Upland continue to be failed by a system that too often appears in a perpetual state of flux.

The city is on the rebound. In the meantime, its schools continue to lag behind.
And the city’s recovery will not be complete until that is rectified.

Well they're having fun in Allentown

Forget Girls Gone Wild. Now we have Students Gone Wild. Or at least some of them.

This is the big buzz in Allentown. Some students apparently took some nude shots of themselves in the altogether, including one girl and guy involved in a sex act, and then proceeded to transmit them to a bunch of their friends on their cell phones.

At least 40 students at Parkland High School are believed to be involved. The D.A.’s office notified their parents and all the kids are being required to bring in their phones to prove the images have been deleted.

Busted? Yeah, you might say that.

That's entertainment

As I mentioned in yesterday’s posts, I use movies as a form of entertainment. Now, my idea of being entertained does not always coincide with what the critics see as high art.

I like action flicks. Give me all the Bond, Willis, Seagal and Van Damme you can load into the DVD player. I like great dramas. My idea of a classic movie is “On the Waterfront.” Or at least a bit more updated, “The Verdict.” Oh, and one other thing.

I’m a sucker for mob movies. My wife thinks I’m a frustrated gangster. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen them, if I’m clicking through the stations and catch “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas,” I’m hooked for the night.

I’m not much for horror or gore. I equate it to amusement park rides. Sorry, but it’s not my idea of a good time. I don’t want to cringe or be grossed out or have to squirm uncomfortably in my seat for two hours.

So I was amused at this item in the news this morning.

It seems some of those attending the current box office king, the monster flick “Cloverfield,” are getting a little more than they bargained for.

The movie uses a lot of jerky, hand-held camera shots. Some people in the audience are getting physically ill, something almost akin to motion sickness.

It was also noted recently that some area theaters have cracked the $10 mark for first-run flicks.

Does this strike anyone as a good time? You’re right. Maybe it’s me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 24

The Daily Numbers: 2 alarm blaze that destroyed a hubcap business on Route 322 in Upper Chichester, and in the process created a morning commuter nightmare for drivers. Route 322 has been closed in both directions from Chichester Avenue to I-95 all morning. Avoid the area at all costs.

3 calls a day, that’s what the airport says they’re getting in terms of complaints since changing flight paths over Delco. Mike Hall isn’t buying it. Neither am I.

6 days in jail for an Upper Darby mom whose son is habitually truant from school.

55,000 bucks for regional emergency medical services OK’d by county council.

3 Republicans and 1 Democrat now seeking to fill the state Senate seat being given up by Connie Williams in the 17th District.

3.7 percent wage tax, what will be welcoming some 400 suburban Verizon workers who are being relocated to Center City. They then will be subject to the city wage tax.

200 or so sticks of dynamite found at a construction site in Chester County near Church and Swedesford roads in Tredyffrin. The cache was destroyed by bomb squads.

2,720 Chester Upland students who are now in charter schools. That number is going to go up dramatically after Commonwealth Court struck down caps imposed by the district on charter school enrollments.

32 deer bagged in a hunt yesterday in an effort to thin the herd in Norristown Farm Park. Forty hunters took part, and were accompanied by a band of protesters.

1 woman fatally shot inside a Bucks County church Wednesday. Officials are labeling it a “suspicious death.”

10 percent cut in costs being sought by the new owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. Yep, the news is not good.

16 percent of the Philadelphia budget that now goes to employee health care and pension benefits. A new study says the city is facing a crisis and can no longer afford the plans without substantial changes.

1.6 billion dollar loss being reported in the quarter by Sovereign Bank, as the blood continues to flow in the financial world.

1,200 dollars, the likely cap for tax rebates for married couples with children under the economic stimulus package being discussed in Washington.

9,369,524 sales around the world recorded by GM in 2007. That barely keeps them ahead of surging Toyota, which logged about 3,000 fewer sales.

0 candidates to be the new president of West Chester University. The state has canceled its search for a replacement to Madeleine Wing Adler because six candidates all withdrew themselves from consideration.

1 point win for Springfield over Penncrest in their huge Central League wrestling showdown last night.

3 wins and 3 losses in the Big East now for Villanova, after they got thumped on the road at Rutgers last night.

10 losses in their last 12 games for the Sixers, who lost last night to the Pistons on their home floor.

1 start for both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as golf’s two golf superstars make their 2008 PGA Tour Debut at the Buick Invitational in San Diego.

100 wins, what Jimmy Rollins believes the Phillies are capable of winning this year.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
21 days until the Phils start spring training in Clearwater. And Jimmy Rollins appears to be in mid-season form. 100 wins? Sounds good to me.

I Don’t Get It: A man charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in Lansdale was out on bail on a child-luring charge at the time. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: A group convened in Harrisburg yesterday to announce the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign, and to push for the changes in school funding laid out last fall in a special costing-out study to be put into action. We concur.


Quote Box: “I’m sure it’s going to be much worse in the spring when the windows are open and everyone is outside.”

-- Ridley resident Anne Hall on noise from planes now flying over her neighborhood.

Sending the FAA a message

I have just one question for Michael Hall: How do you really feel?
Hall owns a home in Ridley Township, where he’s lived pretty much peacefully for 10 years.

But Hall says his life is now miserable, and he blames the Federal Aviation Administration.

Like many county residents, Hall’s home is under the new flight path for departing planes put in place by the FAA. He says that coupled with noise from nearby I-95, the racket is now unbearable.

It’s a complaint many county residents are making.

But Hall decided to do something about it. He decided to send the FAA a message.
Hall climbed onto the roof of his house and used white sealant to pen a note to the FAA. He didn’t mince any words.

Without actually using the complete word, he basically dropped the F-bomb on the FAA. He also made it known he wants the area to be a ‘no-fly zone.’

Hall says he was ticked off as much by something he read as much as anything the FAA did.

It was in the Jan. 12 edition of the Daily Times that we reported an airport spokesperson saying that since the flight path changes were put into effect, they have been logging three calls a day.

It struck me as low.

It struck Hall that way, too. Since then I’ve fielded any number of calls from readers who agree. And they think they know why the number is so low, even if it is more than they ever received before the changes went into effect.

Hall made the same point a lot of people told me. Every time he called the noise number at the airport, the voice-mail box was full.

By the way, the number for the Philadelphia International Airport noise hot line is (215) 937-6233. Or you can send the FAA an e-mail at

In case they don’t yet realize it, the FAA should know people here in Delaware County are hitting the roof over this issue.

In Michael Hall’s case, literally.

A look at the headlines

Sometimes you wonder why you bother to get out of bed.

Here’s a glance at some of the stories that were staring at me yesterday:

* A man is on trial in Philadelphia for murder in the beating death of his 17-month-old daughter. Her offense? She apparently unplugged his Xbox video game system while he was playing it.

* That comes after a hearing for a 14-year-old Lansdowne kid who has been in jail on first-degree murder charges since last July for the stabbing death of his 16-year-old brother. Police believe they were arguing over a video game.

* A man in Scranton is accused of drugging his 9-year-old daughter with cold medicine, then putting her and her 8-year-old sister to bed so that he could slip out for awhile. Why? He was looking to hook up with his mistress.

Yep, some days you just want to pull the covers over your head.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 23

The Daily Numbers: .75 that’s the rate cut rolled out by the Federal Reservie yesterday morning, in the process seemingly bringing the markets bank from the edge of the abyss.

1,000 more students in the Chester Upland School District who could be attending charter schools next year after a ruling by Commonwealth Court affirmed that the district’s cap on charter school enrollment is illegal.

2,702 students currently in charter schools in Chester Upland, as opposed to 4,022 students in district schools.

8 million bucks, the estimated stash that a group of Delco judges has now concluded is part of the assets of jailed lawyer H. Beatty Chadwick.

13 years Chadwick has spent in jail on a civil contempt charge for refusing to divulge the whereabouts of the money, contested in a bitter divorce.

14, age of Lansdowne teen who continues to sit in Delaware County Prison as he awaits trial on first-degree murder charges in the stabbing death of his brother. Police say they quarreled over a video game.

4,200 bucks raised in the running of a 5K race in Nether Providence to benefit township first responders.

300 room hotel that could wind up sitting where the Spectrum now stands as part of the “Philly Live!” development at the South Philly sports complex.

98 percent decline in profits reported at Wachovia Bank, the latest financial institution reeling under the credit and subprime mortgage mess.

96 people busted and $800,000 in cash and drugs seized during a crackdown on nuisance complaints in Southwest Philly last week.

403 jobs that will be moving from the suburbs, including a facility in Upper Darby, to Center City by Verizon. They will relocate to Verizon offices on Race Street.

2 buildings in the path of the expansion of the Philadelphia Convention Center that can in fact be knocked down, according to a Commonwealth Court ruling.

4 th term that will be sought by Chester County Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach, who represents the 6th Congressional District, spread over Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lehigh counties.

3 people fatally shot by police in Philadelphia, which has prompted new Mayor Michael Nutter to order a review of the department’s policy on use of deadly force.

1 female head of the Philly FBI office in its history. That would be new boss Janice Fedarcyk.

1 concert in the history of Beaver Stadium on the campus of Penn State. Fergie will top the first show on April 18.

26, age of female teacher charged with having sex with a 14-year-old male student in Pittsburgh. She’s also charged with sending him nude photos of herself.

2.7 million bucks, the asking price for a 30-second commercial on the Super Bowl telecast on Feb. 3.

10,000 clams, what you can expect to drop on a ticket to the Super Bowl being offered on eBay.

7 goals surrendered by the Flyers as they fell once again to the Devils last night.

10 of 12 the Flyers had won before last night’s setback.

5 straight losses to the Devils for the Orange and Black. Make that 15-1-1 in the last 17. Talk about being bedeviled.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Start the countdown. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater in 22 days.

I Don’t Get It: This time last year Heath Ledger was celebrating an Academy Award nomination. Yesterday he was found dead in a New York City apartment. He was 28. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Count another ally in the war against those ubiquitous plastic bags. Whole Foods supermarkets announced they would bag the plastic bags and go back to using paper bags.


Quote Box: “Stay tuned, stay involved, keep informed on all the facts and together we’ll do what’s right for Middletown.”

-- Township Council Chairman Scott Galloway to crowd gathered to discuss possible development of the old Franklin Mint property.

The bottom line on the Spectrum

The bottom line is that Ed Snider is a bottom line guy.

That’s how he got where he is today. Snider is one of the pioneers of Philadelphia sports. For decades he has been the moving force behind the Flyers, including delivering us from our time-honored reputation as losers by winning two Stanley Cups.

Snider, unlike the Eagles and Phillies, his corporate neighbors at the South Philly sports complex, did not go to the government or public with his hand out when the time came to build a new stadium.

OK, sure, he got the land where a crumbling JFK Stadium sat. But he didn’t hit up the taxpayers and with the kind of corporate welfare that was funneled into Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park, and in fact now is being bandied about now amid talk of a soccer stadium in Chester.

Snider is a self-made man who now sits atop the vast holdings of Comcast-Spectacor, owner of the Sixers and Flyers, and the building he built for them, the Wachovia Center.

That’s not to say he does not have his emotional side.

Yesterday, Snider stepped to the microphones in South Philly to announce plans for “Philly Live!” The truth is, the glitzy series of shops, restaurants and entertainment joints has been 10 years in the making. Snider had his eyes on this type of development when he first envisioned building a new palace for his team to play in.

Didn’t work out then. It looks like it’s going to be a go now.

Comcast-Spectacor is teaming with the Cordish Co., a Baltimore outfit that specializes in these kind of sports-centric developments, to put a snazzy entertainment and shopping destination in the space that sits between the Wachovia Center and the Spectrum.

And that’s where the bottom line gets a bit emotional for the Comcast boss.
Much has been made about the legendary original home of the Flyers and Sixers. The Spectrum celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. It houses more than just championships. It houses memories. Of great athletic events. Of concerts. It is likely where a generation of those in the region saw their first big show.

But time marches on. The Flyers and Sixers no longer play there. It is now the home of the Flyers’ minor league affiliate, the Phantoms, as well as the Kixx, and some other shows.

One of the proposals being looked at for “Philly Live!” would include a luxury hotel that would sit where the Spectrum now resides.

In other words, break out the wrecking ball. And the tears.

Snider yesterday made no effort to hide his emotion at the prospect of knocking down the building where, for him, it all started.

He said it would pain him greatly to see it go. He said there are a number of different possibilities that are being considered. He said the Spectrum was his “baby” and that he would not be there if in fact the building was taken down.
In fact he said everything but this: He did not say the Spectrum would remain standing. A group of artist’s renderings of the development were rolled out. None of them showed the Spectrum still in its familiar spot at the corner of Broad and Pattison. It is the recommendation of the folks at Cordish, who should know, that the Spectrum should go.

It is not a decision Snider will make lightly.

But it is best for the bottom line.

Don’t bet on the Spectrum being part “Philly Live!” Instead, like one of the legendary bands who played so many shows there, it likely will join the list of the Grateful Dead.

For 'Once,' a great movie

Nice to see some things don’t change.

They rolled out the Academy Award nominations yesterday. And my streak of having seen exactly none of the films nominated for Best Picture remains intact for another year.

Truth is I’m more of a DVD guy these days. I don’t actually get to the movie theater all that much.

“Michael Clayton” and “No Country for Old Men” are definitely on my Netflix list. “Juno” is a maybe. “There Will be Blood” probably isn’t going to be out on DVD for awhile. I’ll take a pass on “Atonement.”

I still think the Academy is a little out of touch with the American public. The most entertaining movie I saw this year was the Bruce Willis action flick “Live Free or Die Hard.” Not sure what that says about me, aside from the fact that I use movies as a source of entertainment. I’m looking to get away for a couple hours, and be entertained at the same time. I don’t necessarily need a big message, or to be any more depressed than I already am, or to be grossed out.

Notice I said it was the most entertaining movie I saw this year. It was not the best.

And that brings me back to the Academy Awards. The best flick I saw this year was a quiet little movie about an Irish street singer.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend “Once.”

Someone at the Academy agrees with me. Yesterday one of the songs from the movie, “Falling Slowly,” sung by the actual leads of the movie, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, was nominated for Best Original Song.

Warning: Oonce you see the movie, you won’t be able to get the music out of your head. I have been humming it since the Christmas holidays.

Check it out and let me know if you agree.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 22

The Daily Numbers: 523 points, that’s the dip recorded by the Dow Jones futures markets. That’s 4.3 percent. The U.S. markets are expected to nosedive when they open this morning.

1 hour that they stopped trading yesterday in India in an attempt to halt the slide.

32 percent dip in revenue reported this morning by Bank of America. That’s down to $12.67 billion from $18.49 billion last year. Don’t look now but billions of dollars are going to disppear in a heartbeat when the markets open.

35 years since the historic Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion in Roe vs. Wade. Once again today abortion foes will take their message to Washington.

1 man found beaten to death yesterday afternoon by state police in his Middletown home.

2 people shot in New Castle, Del., Monday night. One of them died. It happened in the 100 block of Karlyn Drive.

2 suspects busted in that burglary spree at the Jersey shore in which expensive homes were entered and pricey items such as flat-screen TVs ripped off. Police believe the duo may be responsible for 20 such heists.

200 jobs that could be headed to Philadelphia as telecom giant Verizon said it will relocate employees to a building on Arch Street.

10 bucks, that’s what moviegoers are shelling out for first-run flicks at Regal Cinemas in Delaware these days.

26.3 million dollars, what a report in Delaware concludes the state could raise by expanding gambling operations into sports betting.

142 the state legislative district. That’s the Bucks County state rep office that former Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick says he’ll run for this year. Fitzpatrick lost his seat in D.C. to Iraq vet Patrick Murphy.

2 plans that likely will be rolled out today by Comcast-Spectacor officials detailing their plans for an entertainment and shopping complex at the South Philly sports venue. One will keep the Spectrum. One will be without it. In other words, break out the wrecking ball.

2 months, that’s how long police believe a murder victim had been out of jail when he was gunned down on a Chester street over the weekend.

2 men now in custody charged with the murder of a young mother in New Jersey. One of the men is her uncle, and police say he may be the father of the baby that was found abandoned in the case.

17 years old, that’s the age at which teens would be allowed to vote under a measure now being pushed in the Pa. Legislature.

2 week delay by new Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in delivering his first budget. He wants to know how much the anti-crime plan being developed by his new commissioner is likely to cost.

300,000 square feet of space between Pattison Avenue and the Wachovia Center, including the site where the Spectrum sits, being considered for Comcast’s ‘Philly Live’ venue.

25 points for Kasheef Festus in leading Archbishop Carroll to a huge 67-61 win over Cardinal O’Hara last night.

44 percent from the floor, what the Sixers shot yesterday in dropping a 110-103 decision to the Pacers.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Does it strike anyone else as suicidal for the Phillies to be picking a fight with their star slugger, Ryan Howard?

I Don’t Get It: Yep, I knew it was coming. I fielded a couple of phone calls yesterday from people who were upset at the decision by Interboro schools to stay open and have a day “on” instead of a day off to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Today’s Upper: Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too? To mark their one-year anniversary, Harrah’s Casino & Racetrack in Chester today will roll out a giant cake and offer the public a slice. It’ll happen in the casino lobby at 9:30 a.m.


Quote Box: “These challenges are as urgent for us today in 2008 as they were in 1968.”

-- Lamelll McMorris, delivering a King Day message to a crowd at Crozer Chester Medical Center in Chester.

Dr. King's message

I spent part of yesterday afternoon taking part in a panel discussion on the message of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on the day set aside to honor his life – and his beliefs.

I have to tell you I was impressed with the people I met. I was welcomed with open arms by the Rev. Bayard Taylor of Calvary Baptist Church, who showed me a magazine detailing Dr. King’s stay as a young man at the very church were we stood.

John Linder, a professor from Delaware County Community College, was there. As was Jim Harper, one of the city’s key labor leaders. And Joe Henwood from CityTeam Ministries. And Butch Slaughter, who gave an impassioned interpretation of Dr. King’s message and how it should be put into practice today. Also in the audience, something I did not know until we were halfway through the program, was Dr. Gregory Thornton, the new superintendent of Chester Upland Schools.

About 50 people gathered to dissect King’s words and discuss how best to put them into action.

But what struck me about the day was something that several people pointed out.
We probably should not have been focusing on the people who were there, but rather the people who were not there.

As Slaughter pointed out, those are the people we need to reach. It’s time to do, not to talk.

He and Bill Nix, a community activist who acted as our moderator and who issued the invitation to me to take part, are doing mentoring work on Saturday mornings, going face to face with young men in Chester.

Slaughter made the point that the time to wait for others to help is over. It’s time to take action.

He made a compelling argument.

But here’s my question. Were we all preaching to the choir? The people gathered know the issuess and know the time demand ore than just talk.

But what about the people who weren’t there? That’s the challenge.

It’s to intervene in all those instances where King’s dream has disintegrated into a stark reality where 40 years later, not enough has changed.

The dreaded 'R' word

Buckle your seat belts, folks. This is going to be a bumpy ride.

While you were safely tucked into your bed, no doubt dreaming sweet dreams, the economy was turning into a nightmare.

The overseas markets went into the toilet overnight. The U.S. market is expected to join them when it opens this morning. The futures are already down sharply.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was off 8.7 percent yesterday. The Shanghai Composite index in China dipped 7.2 percent. In India, they actually halted trading for an hour to stop the slide.

All of this stems from fear and loathing that the U.S. economy, our consumer-driven passion for buying things, in so doing driving the world’s economy, may be cooling off. In other words, people stop buying things. Bottom line? Recession. Maybe.

Much of this is tied into the collapse in the U.S. home building and mortgage businesses. Its roots are in the subprime mortgage debacle. A lot of big U.S. banks have lost billions on bad mortgages offered to people who couldn’t make their payments when the amount of the adjustable rate skyrocketed, and the value of their home didn’t keep pace.

Citigroup and Merrill Lynch both have announced huge losses – and job cuts – tied to losses in the subprime mortgage crisis.

Not good.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better any time soon.

Advice? Especially if you have your life savings or a 401K tied up in the market? Don’t look. It’s not going to be pretty.

Let them eat cake

You can’t say the folks at Harrah’s down in Chester don’t have a sense of humor.
They are throwing a party today to mark the one-year anniversary of their slots operation. As anyone who read our Sunday piece knows, they had a pretty good year.

All they took in was a measly $1.7 billion dollars. You read that correctly. Yep, that’s a lot of zeroes. Of course, you have to temper that with the notion that of that amount they atually paid out $1.5 billion. They don’t say how much of what they paid out is simply dumped right back in the machines.

At any rate, they’re throwing a little shindig at the waterfront casino today. If you’re watching your 401K disappear in front of your eyes as the markets go into the toilet and are considering dumping it all into a slot machine, the casino wants you to know you can have your cake and eat it, too.


To mark their first birthday, casino officials will roll out a huge birthday cake this morning. The confection will measure 8 feet by 4 feet and will be rolled out in the casino lobby on the fourth floor at 9:30 a.m.

The public is invited to snag a slice. First come, first served. Of course casino officials are hoping you’ll pick up that slice on your way to your favorite slot machine.

Only a cynic would make a crack about “Let them eat cake.”
Hey, the way the markets look, by the end of the day we might all be eating cake.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 21

The Daily Numbers: 13 years the region has now been celebrating the holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a day of community service.

60,000 people in the Philadelphia region who will take part in community service projects.

14 of 15 Delaware County school districts who will have the day off. Interboro instead will hold a day “on,” with students taking part in various projects in school.

2 people found dead inside a home in Drexel Hill. Police believe an 84-year-old man killed his adult daughter, who was blind, because he feared no one would be able to care for her when he was gone. He also killed the family dog.

1.3 million dollars, the price tag for the Eagle Road site in Havertown that is the heart of an EPA Superfund site..

6 alarm fire that destroyed a furniture factory in the Kensington section of Philadelphia Sunday night.

2 degrees above zero. That’s what it feels like outside this morning. Figure in the wind chill and it’s more like about 10 below. Balmy compared to what they were dealing with in Green Bay last night.

9 floors, how far a Lower Merion student fell in a suicide leap from his King of Prussia apartment. He’s now on the loang road to rehab and recovery.

4 year degree, what officials at Montgomery County Community College are soon hoping to be able to offer students. Right now they only offer 2-year assoiate degrees.

2 men, including the victim’s uncle, charged in the murder of a young New Jersey mom after her 3-week-old baby was found abandoned in Cinnaminson. The body of the 17-year-old has not been recovered. It was believed dumped in a local creek.

2 people dead in a murder suicide in South Jersey. Police now say marital difficulty was at fault. A woman was found dead in her Marlton home. Her husband is believed to have jumped from the Delaware Memorial Bridge. His subprime mortgage firm was in bankruptcy.

4,000 jobs being cut by telecom Sprint Nextel Corp. The company has 250 employees in the Philadelphia area, 900 in Pennsylvania.

10 acre site in Concord that has been home to J. Franklin Styer Nurseries Inc. The famed local firm has been sold to Urban Outfitters. It will remain a gardening business known as Terrain at Styer’s.

1 homicide recorded so far this year in Chester. A 27-year-old man became the first murder victim when he was found in a field at Third and Wilson streets over the weekend.

25 cents more, what it will cost to buy a single copy of the Inquirer on Feb. 4. Price of the Daily News also will go to 75 cents.

70, age of TV actress Susanne Pleshette, the longtime TV wife of Bob Newhart.

13.5 point favorite, that’s the early line backing the Patriots over the Giants in the Super Bowl.

6 wins in 7 games for the Flyers, who smoked the top team in the Eastern Conference in beating Ottawa last night, 6-1.

10 million bucks, that’s what slugger Ryan Howard wants from the Phillies. They’re offering $7 million.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Did anyone else watching the NFC title game get the distinct feeling that if the Eagles had merely not put anyone back to field punts in their season opener in Green Bay, if they had just let the damn ball drop and play it where it stops, things might have been decidedly different this year for both teams?

I Don’t Get It: An editor at a major golf publication actually thought it was would be a good idea to put a noose on the cover as a way to illustrate the flap over comments made by a female Golf Channel host concerning Tiger Woods. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: So far as I can tell, there have been no fatalities linked to all those people sitting outside for that Green Bay-Giants game in what looked like too-cold-to-believe conditions. Did anyone else fear for Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin’s life?


Quote Box: “It’s a blessing for us to come together and connect and reconnect with each other. Hopefully, this will be an impetus for us to move together and not be so segregated.”

-- The Rev. Warren Mays, pastor at Second Baptist Church in Media, at MLK event Sunday.

Honoring Dr. King

Today is the day when the nation pauses to mark the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For many, it is a day off. That would include most of the school districts in Delaware County.

Most, but not all.

In fact 14 of the 15 districts in the county will have the day off.
Not Interboro.

This year Interboro schools are trying something different. Instead of a day off, kids will get a day “on.”

I think they might be on to something.

Increasingly, the holiday has been moving more toward action, toward putting Dr. King’s ideals into practice through community service.

To that end, students in the Interboro School District will be in class today, taking part in a series of activities applying the principles of the slain civil rights leader.

I give some credit to Superintendent Lois Snyder, who believes a day in class studying what Dr. King was about is a more fitting way to honor his memory.
I agree.

“The vast majority of us have not used the day as it was intended: A day to learn and practice the values of Martin Luther King – peaceful co-existence, respect and service,” Snyder said.

She admits she did not expect everyone to agree with the move.
She’s probably right.

I am not saying that other students don’t take part in any number of very good events. I’m saying that the temptation is merely to look at it as a day off, instead of a day “on.”

For me, it’s not a holiday. I’m in the office today. Later this afternoon I will take part in a panel discussion on King’s legacy at Calvary Baptist Church in Chester.

That’s where King preached while he was a student at Crozer Theological Seminary.
In getting ready for the discussion, in which we were asked to use a single quote of King’s and expand on it as to how his legacy can be put into effect, I had the opportunity to sit down and read his two most famous speeches.

Those, of course, would be his “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered to a huge crowd in Washington, D.C., in August 1963, and his “Promised Land” speech given in Memphis, Tenn., the night before he was assassinated five years later.

It’s the first time I have actually read both speeches in their entirety, as opposed to the clips we are so familiar with on TV. I was so moved by them that I ran the entire text of the “Dream” speech in the Sunday paper.

I was struck by two things.

I would give anything to be able to write like that. I always get goosebumps every time I hear the “Dream” speech. I got the same reaction reading it. The writing, and the words, are nothing short of beautiful.

I also learned a couple of things. King and I had several things in common. One was a love and respect for the First Amendment of the Constitution. That’s the one the guarantees freedom of speech. And of the press. It is something I take seriously. So did King.

He specifically pointed that in relation to the struggle of the sanitation workers in Memphis.

“If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”

Powerful words. Important words. But only words.

In truth, they are words that demand action. They are words call for a day “on,” not another day off.

Which is why I think Interboro is doing the right thing.

The Print Column

Here's a copy of this week's print column:

The location was most appropriate as several hundred people gathered recently to honor the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

They were packed into Calvary Baptist Church on Second Street in Chester for one of the city’s official celebrations honoring the late civil rights leader.

If they listened closely, they might have heard the echoes of the famed orator rattling around the historic church.

King was not just something people in Chester, and Delaware County, read about in the newspaper, or watched on TV.

He lived in Chester. Attended Crozer Theological Seminary. Preached at Calvary Baptist.

Today we mark the national holiday that celebrates Dr. King’s birthday. Instead of a day off, for many it has become a day “on,” a day of community service, taking the words of Dr. King espousing non-violence and equal rights and putting them into action.

But on this Friday night, it was Dr. King’s words that resonated with the crowd.
They are words that are direly needed today, four decades after King was slain, and even longer since his time in Chester, where he put those words into action. In addition to studying in Chester, King spent three years there. He left a lasting mark on his adopted city, teaching Sunday school and getting involved in youth programs at Calvary Baptist.

More than half a century later, some are questioning how far we’ve come, how well we’ve developed Dr. King’s ideals, how far we still have to go.
Chester is a city on the move. Again.

After years of economic decline, during which jobs and much of its population deserted the city, it is in the midst of an economic renaissance.

Its waterfront is now once again a destination point, for both jobs and leisure. The Wharf at Rivertown kickstarted the movement, bringing jobs back to the city, anchored around the glittering restoration of the old Peco Power Plant.

Harrah’s Casino & Racetrack has turned into an economic juggernaut, proving wrong all those nay-sayers who said people would not enter the city limits to do their gambling.

The areas around Widener and Crozer-Chester Medical Center are bustling.
Many old public housing sectors have been demolished to make way for new housing.
There are plans for a new $2 million Boys and Girls Club facility at Seventh and Madison streets.

But Chester is not without its problems. And that issue was not lost on those who gathered at Calvary Baptist two Fridays ago.

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, wondered openly about the oppression many in Chester are still trying to shed. He pointed out the violence – the antithesis of King’s message – that continues to ravage the city.

Just a day before the glowing oratory recreating the words of Dr. King filled Calvary Baptist, another sound was heard on the streets of Chester. It’s one that’s all too familiar to those who live there, and those who police the streets.

A shooting incident involving a car full of young men resulted in a police chase and still another shootout, this time with police. Three young men were hit. Four face charges in the scene reminiscent of something out of the Wild, Wild West.

Police believe the original shootout was sparked by the apparent involvement of one of the teens in an earlier robbery. The victim recognized him. Words were exchanged. So were gunshots.

No one died. That is not always the case. Last year there were 43 murders in Delaware County. Twenty-seven of them were in Chester.

A lot of people believe that part of Chester’s image problem is the way the city is often portrayed in the pages of this newspaper. It is something I struggle with every day.

There is more than one side to Chester. There is no shortage of good stories coming out of the city. But it is not without its warts. All of it winds up in our pages.
This April we will mark 40 years to the day when King was gunned down as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

It is in that spirit that a group in Philadelphia is calling on city residents to observe “40 days of non-violence.”

It is a lofty goal.
It is also desperately needed. In Philadelphia. In Chester. And in every other town as well.

The centerpiece of Dr. King’s teachings was non-violence. Now it’s time to put those words into action. Instead of merely mourning the victims of just the opposite.

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

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 18

The Daily Numbers: 2 teens charged in a series of 15 burglaries in Yeadon.

2 more teens charged in Ridley Park in several incidents in which it is alleged they tossed Molotov cocktails at several homes.

6 armed robberies in which pedestrians have been the target in Upper Darby.

2 GOP candidates who will seek the nod to run for the 162nd state House seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Ron Raymond. Ridley school administrator Jack Cleghorn yesterday indicated he would oppose Nick Miccarelli.

10 Penn-Delco School Board members who have left their posts in the merry-go-round that has been business in that troubled district in the past 17 months.

31 of January, that’s now the key date in efforts to land state funding to build a soccer stadium in Chester. The idea is to lure a Major League Soccer team to play there. An effort to secure a chunk of state funding continues.

800 bucks, that’s what individuals may be in line for as President Bush gets ready to announce an economic stimulus plan. That’s for individuals. Couples would get checks for $1,600.

85,000 bucks, that would be the income cut-off for individuals, $110,000 for couples.

302 that’s the number for our old pal Ben Franklin. They celebrated the inventor and founding father’s birthday yesterday.

65,000 bucks believed ripped off from a charity basketball tourney in Delaware by its founder. Robert Jacobs co-founded Slam Dunk to the Beach. Yesterday he got slam dunked with a prison term.

194,000 bucks fleeced from customers of Citizens Bank by a teller at a King of Prussia bank branch in a series of ID thefts, according to a federal indictment.

3.8 percent hike in rates expected to be sought by Comcast this year. In Delco, basic cable rates will actually go up 5 percent, to $52.25.

42 percent drop in earnings for PNC Bank, still another victim in the loan fallout.

50 percent cut in property taxes, the goal of a proposal in Harrisburg that would lead to elimination of the tax for many folks. It faces a long road before it has any shot of being reality, however.

10,000 more people looking for work in Pennsylvania in December. That’s 6,346,000. Those checks can’t get here fast enough.

3 medals by Haverford swimmer Brendan Hansen at the Athens Olympics. He now will head to Beijing in search of the gold medal that eluded him.

5 point margin of victory as the O’Hara girls squeaked by rival Archbishop Carroll last night.

2 Phils who avoided arbitration and signed one-year deals yesterday. Relievers Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson are in the fold. Now they need to come to terms with star slugger Ryan Howard.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Don’t look now, but Eagles assistant John Harbaugh may be moving to the top of the list of head coaching candidates in Baltimore. The Ravens got shot down by Dallas assistant Jason Garrett. He’s staying put, for a cool $3 million. Harbaugh was one of the best special teams gurus in the NFL before taking over the Eagles secondary this year.

I Don’t Get It: Police in Philadelphia now believe some parents may have actually helped in a vicious stabbing attack by some girls on a female classmate at West Philadelphia High. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Imagine that. They want to be sure that kids who graduate from Pennsylvania high schools are actually proficient at math, reading and writing when they get those diplomas. What a novel idea.


Quote Box: “Our concern is to get these bums off the street before someone gets hurt. These cowardly, gutless bums are throwing terror in our community.’”

-- Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood, on a gang that is preying on pedestrians, believed responsible for five recent armed heists.

Where's my check?

Raise your hand if you’re in favor of getting an $800 check from the government – which they want you to spend as quickly as possible – in order to stave off a recession? Thought so.

That’s the word coming from D.C. today. President Bush is expected to announce an economic stimulus program that would include rebates of $800 for individuals and $1,600 for married couples. Of course, there are some exceptions. For individuals, if you make more than $85,000, or $110,000 for couples, you’d be out in the cold.
Maybe I asked the wrong question.

If you don’t want a check from the government to spend on anything you want, raise your hand.

Yeah, about what I thought.

Another shoe drops in Penn-Delco

Still another shoe has fallen in the troubled Penn-Delco School District.

Another school board member has hit the exit ramp. If you’re counting, that’s 10 board members who have left their positions in the last 17 months.

The latest is Kim SanGiorgio, who submitted her resignation, citing personal reasons.
The circus-like conditions that have swirled around former board President Keith Crego and the Quick Start scandal have caused a lot of heartache in the district. Of course, Crego is now cooling his heels in jail, charged not only in the Quick Start debacle but now also with intimidating a witness against him, former board member and former paramour Christina Fink.

SanGiorgio, unlike a lot of the people who have gone through the revolving turnstile on and off the board, was put there by the voters. She was elected to her seat by the residents of the district in 2001.

She deserved a better fate.

Splashing through the snow

If you’re a big fan of TV news, you might want to stop reading now. If you like being inundated with weather reports, and believe something called Doppler is actually cool, this is not the blog post for you.

I’m about to commit the unthinkable. It’s heresy, especially for a member of the media. I think we make too entirely much out of the weather. That’s not really a secret. It’s been my pet peeve for a long time.

Yesterday I watched as snow rolled into the region in the early afternoon. And the response was about what you’d expect: Mass panic.

Apparently everyone headed for their cars at the same time. People climbed in those SUVs, and all proceeded to hit the road at the same time. And then sit there. For hours.

I sat in my office most of the afternoon, listening to the radio and then catching the early TV news at 4 p.m. It was about what I expected. Armageddon. Wall-to-wall coverage. Cars stacked up in long lines on almost all the major arteries.

Me? I didn’t leave the office until about 6:45. I sloshed through a little glop in the parking lot, cleaned off my car, and drove home as I would almost any other night.

Except for one small item. It took longer than my normal commute? And why was that? Were the streets drifted over? Not exactly. They were wet.

But last night’s drive reaffirms something I’ve suspected for some time. Either we have totally forgotten, or in many cases we just have no clue how to drive in the weather.

And there’s this, and I know this is going to sound strange. There is such a thing as driving too slow in the kind of conditions we had last night. There really is no reason to creep along at 15 mph, as I encountered several people doing. They’re just as likely to cause problems with people swerving to go around them.

Now let me be clear. I am not espousing speeding, or even going too fast for conditions. I am not one of those gear-heads in an SUV who believes my vehicle gives me carte blanche to drive as fast as I want no matter the conditions. You know the ones. They’re the guys who can’t figure out what happened when they roll their four-wheel drive vehicle.

But we don’t have to come to a complete halt either. That’s what I saw on a lot of roads yesterday.

Now I will admit I was not out there in late afternoon. By the time I headed out, it was actually raining.

But it’s the general panic that sets in at the mere mention of snow, which sends everyone out onto the road at the same time, that creates part of the problem.
This morning I got up and drove into the office just as I would on any other morning.
The TV and radio are warning me about icing and slick spots.

Maybe I missed them.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 17

The Daily Numbers: 2 pedestrians police say were struck by a hit-run driver Wednesday night on Providence Road in Upper Darby. They were hit about 7:45 p.m. at the intersection with Ashland Avenue. They’re both hospitalized

90 million dollar plan for a movie studio now on hold in Chester Township as officials wait to get word from Chester Upland School District whether they will get on board.

2 Darby Borough teens who have been charged as adults in connection with the shooting of another teen in the borough.

40 years in education that will end at the conclusion of the 2009 school year when Upper Darby schools Superintendent Joseph Galli calls it a career.

1 billion dollar cut in the state income tax proposed by state legislators yesterday. Don’t get too excited, though. In a separate vote they also voted to hike the levy, as well as the state sales tax.

2 starving dogs seized at a home in the Olney section of Philadelphia where a third dog was found dead. A cat also was found huddling around the dead animal.

30 million being invested by US Airways to revamp their operations at Philadelphia International Airport.

2 armored car guards slain during robbery attempt last fall in Philadelphia. A man was held for trial in the fatal shootings Wednesday.

25 million bucks, what they sold the former state office building at Broad and Spring Garden for in Philly. It will be turned into luxury condos. Isn’t everything?

40 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats backing Hillary Clinton, to 20 percent for Barack Obama, according to the latest Daily News/Keystone Poll. On the GOP side, it’s Sen. John McCain now in the lead with 30 percent. Rudy Giuliani trails with 14 percent and Mike Huckabee in third at 12 percent.

96.4 percent of graduates in the Chester Upland School District failed key reading or math tests.

450 million dollars in home heating aid released by the Bush Administration to help homeowners deal with skyrocketing bills. That might come in handy this weekend, when we’re looking at the coldest temperatures of the winter.

2 that’s the cut-off age under which the FDA is now urging parents not to use over-the-counter cold medicines.

3 killed in the crash of a Navy MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopter in Corpus Christi, Texas.

2 Penn State football players who will now face trial on assault charges that were refiled against them in connection with a campus fight last year.

4 goals in the first period that fueled another Flyers win last night, 5-3 over the Panthers.

20 that was the national ranking of Xavier, before they got knocked off by the Temple Owls last night.

76 points racked up by Villanova last night as they took down DePaul at the Pavilion, payback for losing to them last week.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
We’re No. 1! No, don’t start planning the parade. We have the No. 1 mascot. That would be the Phillie Phanatic, according to Forbes Magazine. The furry guy is tops in terms of a marketing perspective. Maybe the Phanatic and his pals in pinstripes can give us a real No. 1 in October.

I Don’t Get It: Keith Crego. Do I need to say any more? I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to the state House for approving the formation of a special panel to decide how to best implement the recommendations made in an education funding costing-out study last fall. Now the Senate needs to do the same.


Quote Box: “It’s the example that we take through our actions – through things like taking care of this young boy – that provide hope , that give the Iraqis an opportunity to look at us and say, ‘This is a better alternative to the extremism to al-Qaida and to other forces that might rule the day otherwise.’”

-- Army Lt. Col Robert Balcavage, describing to the Concordville-Chadds Ford Rotary his mission of mercy to get medical help in the U.S. for an Iraqi boy he met during his tour of duty there.

Another sad Crego chapter

I’ve stopped trying to figure out Keith Crego.

The former president of the Penn-Delco School Board was in court in Media on Monday for a pre-trial hearing. The belief was he was in the midst of negotiations with the district attorney’s office for a plea deal in connection with the bribery and drug charges filed against him in the scandal that shook the school district to its core.

That was Monday. On Wednesday Crego was back in jail. He’s been charged with intimidation of a witness in the case against him.

County detectives hauled him back in front of a judge, who revoked his bail and sent him off to Delaware County Prison. Crego had been on home monitoring while awaited trial. Now he’s behind bars.

It’s just the latest chapter in the bizarre saga that has gripped the district for more than a year.

Crego apparently has a thing for e-mail. As reported by our columnist Gil Spencer on Wednesday, Crego fired off an e-mail to new district solicitor Mike Levin to defend his role in a controversial split-dollar insurance plan that was instituted during his reign as school board boss. The plan wound up costing the district a bundle. Crego seemed to be pointing the finger of blame at school district financial officer John Steffy for the debacle. Levin did not seem amused. He’s apparently intent on trying to get the district’s money back.

That was not the extent of Crego’s e-mailing. And that’s what got him the visit from county detectives.

They allege he was using e-mail to intimidate Christina Fink, a former paramour who is a key witness against him. It was a blow-up with Fink, who he had managed to get onto the Penn-Delco School Board, that first put Crego’s actions in the spotlight.
Fink is a teacher in the Marple Newtown School District. County detectives allege Crego, using an alias, was sending e-mails to her superiors in Marple Newtown alleging she had been racking up criminal citations in the Scranton area. It turns out that that was a different person. Detectives say it’s part of a pattern of harassment Crego has waged against Fink.

It’s still just a bit mind-boggling to conisder that Crego was once the president of the Penn-Delco School Board, and vice-chairman of the Aston Republican Party. And he came within a whisker of being named the CEO of the Chester Upland School District.

Now he sits in a jail cell in the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Thornbury Township.

Who knows if the deal he was offered on the original charges filed against him is still on the table.

At this point, maybe the deal he should be seeking is with Hollywood.
Then again, maybe not. I suppose you could make a movie out of all this, but who would believe it?

I might not, if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes.

Education funding debate in Nick of time

Who knew we had our own Man of La Mancha right here in Delaware County?

Actually, Nick Micozzie spends a lot of his time in Harrisburg. He’s the Republican state rep in the 163rd legislative district in Upper Darby.

For years Micozzie has been tilting at windmills when it comes to how this state funds education. He has seen – and heard – first-hand the devastating effect of rising property taxes on many of his elderly constituents in Upper Darby, Aldan and Darby Township.

Unlike many of his cohorts in Harrisburg, Micozzie has tried to do something about it. A few years back he rolled out what he called the “Successful Schools Model,” which would hike the state income tax and use the money to offset property taxes.
The plan went nowhere. Even the Republican members of the Delco delegation were plain in saying Micozzie’s plan had no chance.

Property taxes are once again being debated in Harrisburg this week. It comes on the heels of a move by the state House to form a special committee that will look to enact the recommendations suggested by a costing-out study of the state education system last fall.

That study told the rest of the state something Micozzie already knew: The Commonwealth seriously underfunds education, and the method is flawed, making spending per student terribly inequitable across the state. The “haves” do fine. The “have-nots,” including many in the struggling Upper Darby and William Penn school districts Micozzie represents, not so great.

Micozzie has not gone away. And he is not being quiet.

He has been clear this week in letting his colleagues know the importance of the task in front of them.

How clear? This is a sampling of what he had to say on the House floor:
“I urge you, members of the General Assembly, to have the courage to do what’s right. We can not allow another generation of children to slip through the cracks.”
You tell ‘em, Nick.

We concur. Now it’s time for the Legislature to act. Ladies and gentlemen, the ball’s in your court.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 16

The Daily Numbers: 570 million dollars, the magic threshold for revenue from the state’s new gambling meccas we needed to hit for property tax to kick in. We made it this week.

540,000 senior citizens in Pennsylvania who received help with their tax bills last year under the Property Tax and Rent Rebate program.

5 armed robberies targeting women that are plaguing a Darby Borough neighborhood.

16 year-old reported in critical condition this morning after a shooting last night in Darby Borough. The incident happened at 10th and Summit.

174 times a Chester man stabbed his pal, killing him. Yesterday Lawrence Tucker was sentenced to life plus 3 to 7 years in jail.

20 to 40 years in the slammer for a man who terrorized several employees at a Chadds Ford Wawa.

29 of the Philly hopefuls who were part of the first night of ‘American Idol’ who were invited to Hollywood later this year. Thousands showed up last summer for the tryouts.

12 hour ordeal suffered by a 16-year-old Philadelphia teen abducted on her way to school. A man has been held for trial in the attack.

50 million bucks, what the former boss of Commerce Bank is now seeking from his old pals in a lawsuit filed over his dismissal.

45 year-old woman and her 50-year-old husband who fended off a hammer-wielding intruder in their Avondale, Chester County, home. Both suffered stab wounds.

1 man army now under arrest. That’s how cops refer to a man suspected of running a large-scale drug operation in Southwest Philly.

56 combat missions flow in the Iraq War by W. Craig Williams, the assistant U.S. attorney from Concord who’s been tapped by the Delco GOP to challenge U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.

125,000 dollars, awarded to a former student in Pottsgrove who claimed the school district failed to act on warnings about the teacher she became sexually involved with. The teacher is from Delaware County.

15 year-old girl who was severely slashed in a fight with other girls outside West Philadelphia High School. The girl’s mother now says school officials ignored her warnings of potential violence.

100 million cut in state government administrative costs ordered by Gov. Ed Rendell as he previews what could be a fairly bleak budget.

30 of January, that could be doomsday for many commuters as Amtrak, the nation’s rail system, braces for a possible strike.

1 vet against another in the 8th Congressional District in Bucks County. Thomas Manion, a recently retired colonel in the Marine Reserves whose son Travis was killed in Iraq, plans to challenge Democrat Rep. Patrick Murphy, the only Iraq vet serving in Congress.

24 minutes, how long it took a Bucks County jury to convict a man charged with first-degree murder.

7 game skid snapped last night by the Sixers, who rallied from a big deficit to topple the Rockets in Houston.

92 points put up last night by a very impressive Chester Clippers squad that routed Glen Mills, 92-49.

6 game losing streak snapped by La Salle last night, in posting their first Big 5 win in 7 years, as they beat Penn at the Palestra.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
What do you think the over-under on the temperature is going to be for this weekend’s NFC and AFC title games? They’re expecting single digits in Green Bay. In New England, it will be positively balmy, in the teens. The Green Bay game will not start until after dark. We’re talking Ice Bowl II.

I Don’t Get It: Call them the new Broad Street Bullies. Or maybe Bull-ettes. Police say a wolf pack, mostly girls, is preying on those riding the Broad Street subway, in particular the Erie and Olney stops. They’re swiping anything they can get their hands on, in particular electronics like iPods, cell phones and laptops.


Today’s Upper: Vet vs. Vet. Sestak vs. Williams. Start the campaign.


Quote Box: “Our voice in Congress is telling the world, telling Congress itself, telling the nation … and, I believe most importantly telling our troops, that this war is lost.”

-- GOP candidate W. Craig Williams, who will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, in the fall.

Idol Worship

The nation can rest easy. Civilization has been preserved.

No, not because Mitt Romney won the GOP primary in Michigan.

And they haven’t settled the Hollywood writers’ strike.

But we can all settle contentedly in front of the boob tube once again.
“American Idol” is back.

I know this is not where this feature usually pops up, but indulge me: I Don’t Get It.

I suppose at this point I should admit the next installment of “Idol” I watch will be the worst.

Trurth is I’m not a TV guy, unless it’s news, sports or a movie. I don’t watch any shows religiously. I don’t have HBO, so I have not seen the one show that piques my interest, especially since “The Wire” is exploring a journalism theme this year.

But this whole reality TV genre just leaves me cold. Of course, “American Idol” and “Survivor” were first. Now, compounded by the writers strike, we’re being bombarded with this rot.

Adding to the sizzle, especially for those of us in this area, is that last night’s premiere of “Idol” dealt with the auditions held last summer in Philly. Thousands waited hours, and most of them never had a shot.

But there’s something else about “Idol” that rubs me the wrong way. It’s the exploitation of many of those trying out. Yes, they are supposed to know that going in. But some people are picked on simply because they are so bad. Then their lack of talent – and the catty, sometimes cruel comments of Simon, Randy and Paula – is paraded out there for all to see.

Count me out. When I tell some people that I’ve never seen “Idol,” they sometimes fire back that I just think I’m too good for that kind of fare.

They’re right. I do.

Pa. cashes in

It was Ed Rendell’s mantra.

Roll the dice.

Rendell vowed to fix one of the state’s nagging problems, skyrocketing property taxes that were forcing a lot of senior citizens out of their homes. The problem was especially acute in older, established Delco towns with declining tax bases.

Rendell said he had a way to solve the problem.

It was a gamble – literally. Thus, Pennsylvania started down the path to slot-machine gambling.

Next Wednesday, Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack will celebrate its first anniversary.

But the state actually hit a much more important benchmark this week.

Budget Secretary Michael Masch Monday confirmed that revenue from the state’s fledgling slots industry had rolled over the $570 threshold required by law that will unleash property tax help for every homeowner in the state.

Up to this point relief had been limited to some senior citizens under some specific income levels. Now everybody can stick their hand out. There will be a lot of senior citizens who actually will pay no property taxes.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the exact amount and timing of that relief won’t be known until all the numbers are in this summer.

But one thing is clear. Rendell was right. There are some who said he was greatly exaggerating the revenue stream from slot machines.

Hardly. We’re already over the threshold, with less than half of the venues online.
Gambling has its downside. You only have to look at the sad situation involving a former bookkeeper for Ridley School District, who now stands charged with ripping off more than $500,000 in district funds to feed her insatiable gambling habit.

Much of that money was dumped at Harrah’s.

But we knew that going in. We also knew that politicians had talked about property tax relief for years. The only problem was finding a revenue stream to do it.
It’s pretty apparent that the state’s gambling is paying off. Big time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 15

The Daily Numbers: 40 years of memories that could go under the wrecking ball if Comcast-Spectacor decides to build a hotel at the site of the Spectrum in South Philly.

2 young girls, ages 7 and 9, that a former teacher thought he was meeting along with their mother for a sexual tryst in Delco. Instead he was busted by an undercover county detective.

197,000 registered Republicans in Delco, as opposed to 132,000 Democrats, as all eyes start to look toward the next 7th District congressional showdown.

43, age of Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Williams, the GOP pick to face off against incumbent Democrat Joe Sestak.

322 dollars, the average daily payout on each of the 2,790 slot machines at Chester’s Harrah’s Casino & Racetrack.

30 million bucks, the price tag being looked at for work on Marple Newtown High School.

40 days of non-violence being called for in Philadelphia as a way of honoring former civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

3 archdiocese elementary schools in Philadelophia that will merge as they struggle to stay open amid declining enrollment.

540,000 Pennsylvania residents who will now be eligible for property tax reductions as money from the state’s new slots parlors becomes available next year.

3.13 a gallon, average price for unleaded regular gas in the Philadelphia region. That will take care of the savings on property taxes.

650,000 dollars, what a new business grossed in Philly last year. What do they do? The young couple walk people’s dogs. They charge $40 an hour.

3 separate chunks of the Pennsylvania Turnpike that would be leased out, as part of a plan that also would scrap proposed tolls on I-80 to raise money for transit, highways and bridges in the state.

26 percent jump in the average waiting time when you go to a hospital emergency waiting room, from 22 to 30 minutes, according to a new study.

200 people who showed up for the first of a series of community meetings with new Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey at South Philadelphia High School last night.

90 years in the slammer for two Delaware men convicted in a brutal attack in which three people were beaten along Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia in July 2006.

7 new stores in the works for Saxbys, which will challenge Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Wawa in the coffee wars. They’re planning outlets in Haverford and Rosemont.

7 straight losses for the Sixers, who started a road trip by losing in San Antonio last night.

11 years the Kixx have played their games in the Spectrum. That could end if the building is knocked down.

8 wins and 8 losses for the O’Hara boys hoops team. They fell to Bonner, 46-41, last night.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
There is something special about Lambeau Field that comes through even when watching on TV. Last week it was the snow as the Packers frolicked over the Seahawks. Next Sunday it’s expected to be near single digits as they host the Giants in the NFC title game. Frozen tundra indeed.

I Don’t Get It: One more time. Exactly when will people figure out that you really don’t know who is at the other end of that computer chat, and that the person you think is setting up a sexual tryst is actually an undercover detective?


Today’s Upper: Don’t look now, but the property tax help promised by the addition of all those slot machines is about to come true.


Quote Box: “The time that we’ve had to go out and convince people to run is gone.”

-- County Democratic boss Cliff Wilson, on getting candidates to run for office in GOP-dominated Delaware County.

A full Spectrum of memories

Memories are funny things. Sometimes the most trivial things find a spot in the cobwebbed corner of our minds and reside there forever. Other, seemingly more important items, evade us as we struggle to recall them.

I have been trying for the past couple of days to remember the first time I walked into the Spectrum, the original indoor sports and concert hall at the corner of Pattison and Broad in South Philly.

I’m pretty sure it was a concert, but for the life of me I can’t remember who the starring act was. It’s a pretty good guess, however, the Foghat opened the show. They seemed to open for everyone in the ‘70s. I can’t count the number of times I heard “Chateau Lafitte Boogie” live.

I have spent a lot of time the past few days remembering the Spectrum. That is because it is entirely possible that sometime in the near future someone will actually walk into the venerable building for the last time. Period. End of era. Over.

As reported in our Sunday newspaper by Anthony SanFilippo, Comcast-Spectacor is considering several proposals to develop property they own at the South Philly sports complex. This goes back 10 years to the time when they built the “Big House,” what is now the Wachovia Center. Originally the plan was for a series of shops and other outlets. It never happened.

Now it’s back. Comcast-Spectacor officials have confirmed that one of the proposals would include a hotel, which would sit where the Spectrum now stands. In other words, break out the wrecking ball.

And unleash the memories. Forty years of them.

The building first became famous not for the events held there, but the ones that were not. That’s because a storm blew the roof off the joint soon after it opened. Sixers and Flyers game that were supposed to be played there had to be moved.

I’ll leave the argument about whether or not the building should be preserved to others. It’s the memories that fascinate me. The Flyers winning their first Stanley Cup, parading it around the ice amid a sea of humanity that would soon wash across the region and then reform a day later on Broad Street, as we celebrated the fact that we were no longer losers. If you listen hard enough, you can still hear the echoes of Kate Smith’s live version of “God Bless America” in the old place.

The Flyers won again the next year, but the clincher came on the road against the Sabres.

The orange and black saved the NHL’s dignity by beating – and beating up – the Russian national team in a game made famous by the Russian coach’s decision to pull his team from the ice after an especially tough check from Flyer Ed Van Impe.

The Sixers won a title, taking two games on the Spectrum hardwood before sealing the deal against the Lakers in L.A.

In 1992 there was maybe the single most famous shot in Spectrum history, Christian Laettner taking that long outlet pass and sinking a bucket as time expired as Duke topped Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Eastern Regional.

But it’s the concerts I will always remember the most. It was where I was introduced to live music, and the notion of a “dance concert.” In other words, first come, first serve. They opened the doors, and thousands of kids shot in trying to get the best seats on the floor.

There wasn’t a lot to do as a teen out in the far reaches of Oxford, Pa., in Chester County. I had a car. A group of us became Spectrum regulars. Of course, back then, you could get a ticket for most shows for 10 bucks or less.

The acts I saw at the Spectrum read like a who’s who of classic rock: Johnny and Edgar Winters, Mountain, the Who, the Allman Brothers, Santana, Rod Stewart, the Eagles.

Ironically, it’s a show I did not see in person that has stuck with me over the years. It had to be the winter, January or February of 1973. I was a senior in high school. A bunch of us had tickets for a Chicago show at the Spectrum. Something came up and I didn’t make it.

The next day I talked to my friends and all they could talk about was the opening act at that show.

Now remember, this crowd had come to see Chicago, and they apparently made that pretty clear to the opening act. In those days, the opener was supposed to play a few songs, warm up the crowd and get off. This act had other ideas. And the crowd let them know about it.

And who would that band be? That would be a scruffy kid from New Jersey and his pals. Yes, that would forever be remembered as the night Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band got booed off the Spectrum stage.

Times change. So do musical tastes. And tastes in stadiums.

The built the Core States Center. The Flyers and Sixers moved next door. Now they are considering knocking the building down altogether.

Which brings me to the last time I was in the Spectrum.

This one I have no trouble remembering. Talk about changing tastes.

Very likely 25 years after the first time I walked into the Spectrum for a concert, I returned.

The place was packed. The atmosphere was electric. You could literally feel the buzz in the place, as opposed to the kind of buzz that was present a quarter of a century ago.

The lights went down, and Francis Albert Sinatra walked onto the stage to one of the most thundering ovations I’ve ever heard.

It was his 75th Silver Anniversary Tour.

A lot of people probably will say he was well past his prime. You could have fooled me.

Of course, I’m a bit biased. My wife and I danced to “All the Way” at our wedding.
When Sinatra sang the first few notes of that classic, I grabbed my wife’s hand and looked at her. We both had tears in our eyes.

Yeah, memories are funny things.

Thankfully, unlike buildings, they never die.

Monday, January 14, 2008

T.O.ver the edge

How ’bout ’dem Cowboys!

Yes, with the Eagles long gone from the playoff picture, there’s really nothing better than seeing the hated Cowboys crumble right there on our flat screens.
But yesterday Dallas haters were treated to a rare double-header. First we got to relish Tony Romo and pals going down in flames, then we witnessed the latest Terrell Owens meltdown after the game.

If you haven’t seen it, check out the video here.

As you may know, there was more than just a bit of consternation in Dallas last week because Romo decided to jet off to Cabo with his new squeeze, blonde bombshell Jessica Simpson. No one seemed to notice that tight end Jason Witten also was on the trip.

Owens, of course, made headlines (imagine that!) after the Eagles game when he said the appearance of Simpson in a box with her pink Cowboys jersey upset the team’s karma. The Cowboys lost that game.

Fans took sides, some of them going so far as to label the would-be pop star a latter-day “Yoko Romo,” intimating she was having the same effect on their beloved ‘Boys as Ono once had on the Beatles.

Then came the stunning loss Sunday against the Giants.

And the even more stunning post-game crying jag by Owens. Simpson, by the way, was not even in the stadium.

T.O. defended Romo after the game and said, in a weeping post-game press conference, that it would be unfair to dump the blame for the loss on Romo. Or Simpson for that matter.

Look, I’m a T.O. guy. I think the Eagles thoroughly botched the whole flap over his contract demands. To be honest, I still believe that for that one season, Owens might just be the best player to ever don an Eagles uniform. The Eagles have not been the same team since.

But Owens certainly does have a knack for the dramatic. This is the same guy who did sit-ups in his front yard for the small army of media who descended there after he was sent home from camp by Andy Reid.

But there’s one part of me that believes maybe T.O was speaking in code last night.
Check out the shades he was wearing to hide the tears after the game Sunday. Anyone else think they look just like the kind of sunglasses once favored by one Yoko Ono?
There you have. T.O., the latest chapter.

At least until somebody sticks a camera or microphone in his face again.

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 14

The Daily Numbers: 1 to 3 inches of snow. That was the forecast for overnight. Didn’t happen. Want snow? Head to Boston.

2 hours late start this morning for schools out in the Owen J. Roberts School District in Chester County. Exactly why remains something of a mystery.

10 cents, how much more we’re all paying for gasoline over the last three weeks. The national average is now $3.07.

3 people fatally shot by Philadelphia police officers already in the new year.

3 killed in a hit-run accident in North Philadelphia Saturday night.

2 killed when flames swept through home in Salem, N.J., early this morning.

2 children killed in a fire in a house in Collegeville Sunday. Authorities are now saying the blaze appears suspicious.

4 of the top 5 grossing slots operation on the East Coast are now in Pennsylvania, including Harrah’s Chester.

400 million dollars in federal aid that poured into Pennsylvania for homeland security upgrades since 9/11. A new report says the state has done a poor job over overseeing the money.

10 years, how long Comcast Spectacor has been looking at proposal to develop their property around the sports complex. One plan they are now looking at would include a hotel that would sit where the Spectrum now stands. The legendary sports and concert hall would have to be knocked down.

33 percent of Republicans now backing Sen. John McCain in a new national poll. That makes him the leader in the crowded GOP field. Mike Huckabee is second with 18 percent.

42 percent of Democrats in same poll in the Hillary Clinton camp, to 27 percent for Barack Obama.

0 playoff wins for Tony Romo, after his Cowboys were stunned by the Giants yesterday, eliminating them from the NFL playoffs.

2 goals for Mike Knuble in the Flyers 6-4 win over the Capitals in D.C. yesterday.

13 of their last 17 games on the road for the struggling Sixers.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Hey, I’m on record as being a T.O. guy, but even I think he was off the deep end with his weepy-eyed emotional outburst after the Cowboys went down to defeat Sunday against the Giants.

I Don’t Get It: All together now: Where exactly are the “northern and western suburbs?”


Today’s Upper: Kudos to Flyers fans, who gave a standing ovation to the family of slain police Officer Chuck Cassidy, as his memory was honored at Saturday’s game.


Quote Box: “It’s really unfair. That’s my teammate … my quarterback … We lost as a team.”

-- Emotional Terrell Owens after the Cowboys lost to the Giants Sunday in Big D.

Another snow job

Well, they managed to do it to us again.

Were you able to make it through the drifts and dig out your car this morning?
Well, I would certainly hope so. After all, we didn’t get any snow. None. Zippo.
We got rain. And not all that much.

The roads were wet this morning. Barely. I’m telling you the conditions were absolutely treacherous – trying to negotiate my way from the bedroom downstairs to the coffee maker. The roads? Oh, they were fine.

Of course, this all started on Friday, just as soon as even the remotest chance of snow appeared on the horizon. That immediately made it “the big story.” The forecasters, not content with being unable to tell us what it will be like 15 minutes from now, zero in on the possibility of snow that is still more than two days away.

The call all day Saturday and Sunday was for 1-3 inches of snow Sunday night into Monday. The storm was expected to start as rain, then change over into snow and make the Monday commute a mess. The city was supposed to get mostly rain a light dusting of snow. North and west would get more, south and east even less.

Well, they got the rain part right.

Snow? Not exactly, unless those magical “northern and western suburbs” now include Boston.

The storm skipped us altogether and headed for New England.

One school district in Chester County, Owen J. Roberts, is actually opening two hours late this morning. Maybe they have icy conditions. They don’t have much snow. That decision was apparently made Sunday night.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while now. And I don’t suppose it’s going to change any time soon. People are fascinated by the weather. And in this area, we have panic attacks at even the mention of snow.

That, of course, translates into ratings. That’s why we are indundated with all manner of glitzy radar packages and why the weather report seems to dominate the nightly news.

And no, newspapers are not immune to this forecasting biz. We had stories on both our Web site and print edition.

Let’s all blame John Bolaris. He’s back in town, just in time for another snow storm that wasn’t.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 11

The Daily Numbers: 3 people shot on the streets of Chester Thursday afternoon as police exchanged gunfire with several suspects in a car.

4 suspects in the case, which apparently started when they spotted another driver who they belive had robbed them several weeks ago, and opened fire on him.

10,000 dollars in charges that are being reviewed as part of an investigation into Thornbury Township finances. The treasurer has been fired amid the probe.

1,000 dollar reward now being offered for information in the brutal killing of a pit bull outside an abandoned building in North Philadelphia.

2 local teens charged with murder in Kentucky in a police chase that wound up with their car striking the parked cruiser of a sheriff’s deputy. The deputy and his K-9 partner were killed. The two teens are from New Castle County, Del., and Lincoln University in Chester County.

5.7 percent decrease in revenue for Atlantic City casinos recorded last year. It’s the first time that’s happened in 28 years. All fingers are being pointed at the bustling business being done by Pennsylvania’s new slots meccas, including Harrah’s Chester.

850 bucks drained from the account of a Chester County woman after her purse was stolen at a shop in Exton. Police believe a man and woman have teamed to hit six women in the area in the last three weeks.

6 years, how long a student teacher allegedly harassed 20-year-old woman who was in his class when she was a ninth grader in Bucks County. He now faces trial.

19 year old shot and killed Thursday night outside a food market at 57th and Arch in Philadelphia.

400 jobs that will be created with $5 million in state loans going to projects in Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. None for Delco, unfortunately.

19,995 students in Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. Teachers and the archdiocese are entering into streamlined talks in hopes of avoiding contract problems.

3 complaints a day, that’s what Philadelphia International Airport says it is getting since it put flight path changes into place.

250,000 being paid by two local Kia dealerships for what the attorney general’s office calls deceptive ads.

3 goals for Scott Hartnell as the Flyers blew away the Rangers last night, 6-2, in the Big Apple.

6 wins in their last 7 games for the orange and black.

60 points for the girls from Ridley as they rolled over Marple Newtown in girls hoops last night.

0 playoff games for the Eagles this weekend. They’ll be in front of the tube just like the rest of us.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Bob Clarke is taking a different view of the latest incident involving loose cannon Steve Downie, who took a poke at a foe who was being restrained by an official after a scrum. Gotta love Clarkie. Shades of Valerie Kharlamov.

I Don’t Get It: Talk about heart-breaking. It turns out Chuck Cassidy, the Philadelphia policeman who was slain when he walked in on a Dunkin Donuts burglary, had a previous run-in with the suspect. He actually chased John Lewis after a heist at the very same coffee shop a few weeks earlier. Lewis escaped. Unbelievable.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to Chester Upland School District boss Gregory Thornton, who is floating a novel idea to take the Village Charter School and bring it under the district’s wing at the end of the year. That’s thinking outside the box.


Quote Box: “I am so glad no one was killed.”

-- Witness to the wild shootout that played out on Chester streets Thursday when several suspects opened fire on a car, and then on police when they responded to the scene.

The Yarris fallout

It turns out not everyone is thrilled with the multi-million dollar settlement reached in the Nick Yarris case.

One of those would be Dennis C. McAndrews. He knows a little something about the case.

McAndrews is a former county prosecutor and he handled the appeals end of the case, after Yarris was convicted and sent to death row, where he would spend the next 22 years seeking to clear his name.

Eventually DNA testing proved the evidence found on items belonging to the victim, Linda May Craig, did not match Yarris.

On Wednesday Yarris announced he has settled his malicious prosecution suit against a slew of county officials for several million dollars.

That wouldn’t have been the case if McAndrews had his way. He makes no bones about disagreeing with the decision and makes it clear, as do current county officials, that the move was made by the county’s insurance company. The county actually doesn’t have a say in the matter. If the insurance company wants to settle, they can. And they did. And McAndrews is not a bit happy about it.

He raps the move as “a business decision, which involved considerations other than the merits of the case.”

And that’s not all. McAndrews still believes in that case, the one that sent Yarris to death row in the first place.

“The facts introduced at the criminal trial supported Yarris’ convictions and the unanimous affirmance of that conviction by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, whose description of the evidence against Yarris is public record and is fully available,” he said.

McAndrews hints at something else that has been lurking around this case for years. He seems to believe that if Yarris was not the killer, he knows something about it and should not be exonerated from possible participation in the event.
McAndrews says he would have liked to haven taken the case back into a courtroom.
He’s not alone.

Linda May Craig’s son is not yet ready to exonerate Yarris either. Arthur L. Craig spoke with our John Roman Thursday, and he also made it clear he does not think the settlement exonerates Yarris. His father, Linda May Craig’s husband, died several years ago.

Arthur Craig moved away from the area several years ago to get away from the “bad memories.”

A mother brutally murdered. A suspect who spent 22 years on death row, until DNA testing cleared him in the case. A former prosecutor as well as several county officials who disagree with the settlement – for millions – of the lawsuit that suspect filed against the county. And a family member still looking for closure.
Seems like there’s no shortage of bad memories involving this case.

And one more. The person responsible for killing Linda May Craig is still out there, having never been brought to justice.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 10

The Daily Numbers: 22 years, how long Nicholas Yarris spent on death row for a crime DNA testing proved he did not commit.

8,057 days Yarris spent behind bars. He has now settled a lawsuit he filed against the county for several million dollars.

527,000 dollars in a grant that will target the development of math educators at several Delco colleges, including Cabrini and Neumann.

190,000 dollars that will be shared by several local Catholic schools, the largesse of Millennium Insurance Co. in Newtown Square. Our Lady of Peace in Milmont Park will get $50,000 for financial aid for students’ families.

1 teenager killed overnight when his car slammed into a tree in Camden County, N.J. The crash happened around 1:10 a.m. on Route 130 and Haakon Road in Brooklawn.

60,000 people expected to turn out for community service projects to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Philadelphia on Jan. 21.

36 Chinook helicopters delivered by the Boeing plant in Ridley to the Army and international customers last year.

2 age of a brown female pit bull terrier mix that was found stabbed to death in Upper Township, Cape May County. SPCA officials are now investigating.

600,000 dollars in federal funds earmarked for SEPTA to develop a high-tech communications system that will link trains and first responders.

850 members of the teachers union in Downingtown, Chester County, who are threatening to hit the bricks Jan. 29 if they do have a new contract. They’ve been talking with the district for more than a year. There are 12,000 students in the district, the largest in the county.

200 times a man is suspected of raping a woman over a 13-month period in Bellefonte, Pa. He told her he would cause her further harm if she told her husband or police.

1 less Democratic candidate for president today. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is pulling the plug on his efforts.

3,000 Marines headed to Afghanistan to bolster efforts to hold off the Taliban.

5 straight losses by the Sixers, who fell to Toronto last night.

10 point loss for Temple to No. 9 Duke last night. The Owls scratched back after falling way down in the first half.

18,030 packed into the Wachovia Center last night for the Temple-Duke affair.

31 points for former Springfield High and Daily Times Player of the Year Dan Geriot yesterday as Richmond topped La Salle in triple OT. It was a career high for the former Delco star.

4 injured Flyers who may be back in the lineup tonight then they tangle with the Rangers.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Exactly one Eagle made the AP NFL All-Pro team. That would be Brian Westbrook. Seems about right.

I Don’t Get It: There’s no shortage of people scheming to separate you from your hard-earned money. All the technology we are swimming in only creates that many more opportunities. Beneficial Bank says it has foiled an attempt by someone to get personal info from their customers.


Today’s Upper: There’s good news today for both local college and schools. The colleges are getting a financial boost to develop math teachers. A Newtown Square insurance company is chipping into a fund to help families with the cost of attending local Catholic schools.


Quote Box: “All I want to do is pay off my debts and live quietly.”

-- Nick Yarris, after announcing he had settled his lawsuit against the county for the 22 years he spent on death row.

Just desserts? Not exactly

I do not know exactly how much Nicholas Yarris got in the settlement of his lawsuit against Delaware County.

I do know this.

It wasn’t enough.

In 1981 Yarris, who was living in Southwest Philly, was in Delaware County prison on a minor charge. Ironically, he was later acquitted of those charges.

But while in the Delco lockup, Yarris, an admitted drug user, started chirping about a sensational Delco murder case.

Linda May Craig, a mother of three from Boothwyn, had been abducted from the parking lot of Tri-State Mall in Claymont, Del. She was raped and murdered. Her body was found in a snow-bound lot behind a Delco church.

Yarris, hoping to get a break on the charges against him, indicated he had knowledge about the identity of the killer. Only problem was that the guy he was fingering had an alibi. Suddenly investigators turned their attention to Yarris.
Yarris was charged and convicted of Craig’s murder.

He spent the next 22 years – fully half his life -- on death row, for a crime that DNA testing eventually proved he did not commit.

I’m trying to think if you can put a price tag on those 22 years, time that Yarris, now 46, can never get back. He spent 8,057 days behind bars.

Not for one of them did Yarris ever flinch in maintaining his innocence.

Six years after his conviction, Yarris started to seek the DNA testing that eventually set him free. It would take another 16 years before he walked out of prison. In so doing he became the first person in Pennsylvania history to be released from death row because of DNA testing.

Yarris says he was not the only innocent man on death row. He is now an avowed opponent of the death penalty.

In his lawsuit, which named a former county district attorney and several county detectives, Yarris maintained his attempts to get the DNA testing were stymied by county officials. As part of the settlement, he has dropped all claims against the Delco officials.

After the DNA tests came back, a federal judge ordered that Yarris be given a new trial. Delaware County prosecutors decided not to pursue the case.

The district attorney’s office maintains their belief that no one in their office conducted themselves improperly in the Yarris investigation. They point out, as does the county solicitor, that it was the county’s insurance carrier, not specifically the county, which agreed to the settlement and payment.

Yarris had sought $22 million, one million for each year he spent on death row. He likely received less than that, a lot less.

And certainly not enough.

For his part, Yarris says he simply wants to “pay off his debts and live quietly,” a new life he has created outside London with his wife and daughter. He wants to be able to make sure his daughter’s future is secure.

He seems like a man who has come to grips with what happened to him, the 22 years of his life that were taken away from him, and those he believes responsible.

He is a better man than I would bem should I ever be placed in that position.
But I do have a question. Someone killed Linda May Craig. There is no closure on this case for her family and loved ones.

I’d like to know who? So would Nick Yarris.

The case remains open.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Comeback Kids

It turns out the “Comeback Kid” has a “Comeback Spouse.”

It was back in 1992 when a second-place showing in New Hampshire propped up the struggling campaign of a then-obscure Arkansas governor. Bill Clinton went on capture the Democratic nomination and the White House.

Fast-forward 16 years. All the polls indicated Hillary Clinton was trailing red-hot Barack Obama by double-digits after his huge win last weekend in the Iowa Caucus.

Clinton was reeling, clearly showing the emotion of the campaign during a response to a question in New Hampshire on Monday. There was talk of a major campaign shakeup. No one expected her to beat Obama in the Granite State. Some even wondered if her candidacy could survive.

So what happened? Better check those poll numbers. Clinton stunned the experts – and the nation – by posting a huge upset win that likely reinvigorated her campaign.

She got 39 percent of the vote, compared to 36 percent for Obama. John Edwards trailed badly with a third-place finish, getting just 17 percent of the vote.

The comebacks weren’t limited to the Democratic side of the ledger. Sen. John McCain completed his Lazarus act, bringing his campaign off the slag heap to post an equally amazing win, and position himself as the possible GOP front-runner. Mitt Romey again finished second.

We’re left with a couple of questions. Why do so many put so much faith in pre-election polls? And how exactly did Clinton manage to pull this off when her own campaign seemed as stunned by her win as anyone else?

The polls actually got it half-right. They nailed the McCain win in New Hampshire. But they were shot out of the water on the Democratic race. Obama failed to generate the same amount of passionate turnout among young voters that propelled him to a win in Iowa.

One key was the women vote. All we heard all week was how women were turning their backs on Hillary and moving to the Obama camp. But she won big among women in New Hampshire. She beat him among women by 13 percent.

The message coming out of Iowa was all about change. Now the buzzword is about comebacks.

Both races are now wide open again and look like they will remain so at least until the Super Tuesday faceoff on Feb. 5 when two dozen states head to the polls.
Along the way there will now be added focus on Michigan next week, and South Carolina on Jan. 19 for Republicans and the 26th for the Dems.

Hell, at this rate Pennsylvania might even be in play on April 22.

Now that would really be a comeback.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 8

The Daily Numbers: 700,000 dollars a year, the annual salary Alycia Lane just saw go down the drain after being fired by Chanel 3 from her anchorwoman position.

3 new members of Delaware County Council, after Andy Lewis. Tom McGarrigle and Christine Fizzano-Cannon took the oath of office yesterday.

1 new president judge in the county. Judge Joseph P. Cronin Jr. will now head the bench.

69 the record high temperature for this date, set just 10 years ago. We might break it today, as we could push into the low 70s. Can you say global warming?

573,792.71, the amount now believed scammed from the Ridley School District by a former payroll coordinator. Carol Ackley apparently told authorities she blew all the money at local casinos to feed her gambling addiction.

50 bucks, what people ponied up to party with new Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and others at the inaugural gala at the former Navy Yard last night.

45, age of former high school football coach in South Jersey now facing charges of having inappropriate sexual conduct with a teenager.

8,000 DUI convictions in New Jersey that are in jeopardy amid legal challenges to the ‘Alcotest’ device that was used to determine whether they were over the legal limit.

1 cent more we’re paying at the pump in Pennsylvania. Average price for unleaded regular is now a robust $3.18.

2 historic buildings now standing in the way of expansion of the Philadelphia Convention Center. Preservationists are trying to halt the demolition.

2 new execs being brought in by US Airways to try to straighten out their operations at Philadelphia International Airport. They handle 60 percent of the traffic there.

1,000 residents in Bucks County who have signed up for e-mail alerts when disaster or crime threatens their area.

1 volunteer firefighter who was electrocuted Sunday while battling a fire in Scranton. Initial indications are it was a mixup between the fire company and power company.

36 percent of Democrats backing Barack Obama, according to polls in New Hampshire. That puts him well up on Hillary Clinton and her 28 percent.

35 percent of Republicans backing John McCain, making him the GOP front-runner over Mitt Romey at 31 percent.

1 year deal for Jayson Werth, the Phils utility right fielder.

1 stern warning for Flyers tough guy Steve Downie, who was dressed down by both league officials and his own GM after the latest incident involving a punch he threw during a fight with a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs over the weekend.

1 more game the Flyers likely will have to play without star Simon Gagne. He’s hoping to be back in the lineup Thursday night against the Rangers.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Here’s hoping Villanova makes the Final Four. Otherwise, wake me when pitchers and catchers report. Come to think of it, it’s going to feel more like Clearwater around here today.

I Don’t Get It: Anyone else figure it’s just a coincidence that we’re talking about Alycia Lane on the day weather star John Bolaris returns to the local airwaves on Channel 29? Can the storm of the century be far behind? John will have to settle for record highs.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to Media police Officer Edward Fullmer, who was welcomed back after a tour of duty by the VFW in Media last night.


Quote Box: “When you run for this position and you get in, you don’t understand the complexities and how much time it takes to get involved with all the aspects of the job.”

-- County Council Jack Whelan, offering a little advice to the three new members sworn into their council seats yesterday.

Life in the Fast Lane

Today the eyes of the nation are riveted on New Hampshire, where the big question is whether Hillary Clinton did or did not shed a tear during a press conference, and more importantly, can she resurrect her presidential hopes from under the steamroller of Barack Obama. On the Republican side, John McCain seems poised to prove there is such a thing as a political Lazarus, bringing his campaign back from its death bed to what some are calling front-runner status. Important stuff.

Likewise, here in Delaware County, we have three new faces on the Delaware County Council. Andy Lewis, Tom McGarrigle and Christine Fizzano-Cannon were sworn in yesterday, ushering in a new era of county government. New era? Yes. But the same party. All are Republicans, as all Delco council members have been since the early ‘70s. Linda Cartisano succeeds Andy Reilly as council chairman.

The county also has a new president judge. Those who wear the black robes met yesterday and elected Joseph P. Cronin Jr. as their leader. Cronin succeeds Judge Edward J. Zetusky.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter took the oath of office and immediately declared the city in the grips of a crime emergency. He also reached out to us in the ’burbs, offering to work with suburban leaders.

All in all, a pretty heady day on the government/political dance card.

Oh, and one other thing happened yesterday. A Philadelphia TV station fired its top anchorwoman.

What do you think people are talking about at the water cooler today?
Welcome to my world.

Yes, if you look at the front page of the print edition of the Daily Times, you will see right up there in our lead “skybox” the story teasing the Alycia Lane story.

No, it is not our lead story. Nor do I think it should be. But there is no doubting it is the story people are talking about this morning.

For those unaware, Lane got involved in a dustup in New York City back on Dec. 16. At 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

She was arrested, charged with assaulting a plainclothes female Big Apple officer, as well as dropping some not-so-lovely sexual slurs on the officer in the process.
Lane has denied doing either.

Lane, who paired with Delco guy Larry Mendte breathed new life into the Channel 3 news, has not been on the air since. A previously scheduled vacation was extended. She was edited out of the station’s Christmas special.

She was due to return to her $700,000-a-year gig on the 6 and 11 p.m. news yesterday. Didn’t happen.

Instead, Channel 3 released a statement saying that “we have concluded that it would be impossible for Alycia to continue to report the news as she, herself, has become the focus of so many stories.”

That’s part of Lane’s problem. This is not her first trip down the “Fast Lane.” She’s been divorced twice, and went on the Dr. Phil show to talk about the break-up of her second nuptials.

Then came the embarrassing revelation that she had e-mailed pictures of herself on vacation – in a bikini – to a pal, NFL Network host and former ESPN personality Rich Eisen. His wife was not thrilled and made the e-mails public.

In his statement, CBS3 General Manager Michael Colleran made it clear the station was making no judgments as to Lane’s guilt or innocence. Only that they no longer want her reading the news on their dime.

Lane, who has not spoken publicly on the matter pending a court hearing April 3 in New York, has hired a lawyer. Paul Rosen has called the firing unfair and unwarranted. It’s expected that Lane will file a wrongful-dismissal suit against her former employer.

Do I envy Lane’s salary? Sure. Let’s just say that not many newspaper gigs pay that well.

Is there a part of me that feels bad for her? Yes.

Do I believe her firing was warranted? Does it really matter? The station made the decision that they could not credibly have her on the air. Not only was this the latest in a series of incidents, but it involved an alleged attack on a police officer as well as the use of slurs. Not good.

And there is one other thing as well. After she got out of the slammer, one of Lane’s first calls was to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, purportedly just to tell her side of the story. Another mistake.

So Alycia’s latest trip in the “Fast Lane” will now fade into a trip down Memory Lane. But not before the lawyers have their say.

Which reminds me of something I think of almost every night as I collapse into my bed at what seems like an earlier hour each day: There is something to be said for a boring life.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 7

The Daily Numbers: 30 percent dip in beer sales expected by Township Line Beverage in Drexel Hill because the Eagles are not in the playoffs. Talk about crying in your beer.

1 day before the first actual presidential primary, Tuesday in New Hampshire. Then we’ll get a whole new round of punditry and analysis of the horse race. Just 11 months before the election.

61 degrees, where we’re headed for a high today on this second week in January. If this is winter, I’ll take it.

4 people who were in a car that went off a road and down an embankment on Concord Road in Glen Mills Sunday night. No serious injuries were reported.

3 condos destroyed, 11 others damaged when flames roared through a Bucks County complex this morning. Officials say dozens of people have been displaced from their homes at the Crestwood Condos in Bristol.

2 people shot in West Philly Sunday night on the 5700 block of Wyalusing Avenue. Yep, Mayor Nutter has his work cut out for him.

7 firefighters briefly trapped while battling a fire in Wilmington Saturday night. All escaped with minor injuries.

18 year-old woman shot to death in Bridgeville, Del., Sunday night.

1 as in Day One of the Michael Nutter Administration in Philadelphia.

3 new members of Delaware County Council, all Republicans, who will take the oath this morning in Media.

1 million bucks in state aid going to Philadelphia International Airport for their runway expansion project.

26 age of teacher in Coraopolis, Pa., charged with sending nude pictures of herself to a 14-year-old student’s cell phone.

3 people, including a volunteer firefighter, killed Sunday when flames consumed a home in Scranton.

3 new prisons that will not be built as part of a plan to scrap Graterford Prison. Officials have dumped the project.

38 points for Allen Iverson as he lit up his old pals and the Nuggets rolled over the Sixers, 109-96.

0 playoff games for the Eagles, as they sit out the party for the second time in three years.

2 crucial interceptions for former Eagle Jeff Garcia as the Bucs fell to the Giants.

1 Big East win for Villanova men as they evened their league slate with a big win over Pitt.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Please, someone tell me the Giants and Cowboys are not going to play for right to go to the NFC title game. It’s bad enough the Eagles missed the playoffs altogether. Come on Packers!

I Don’t Get It: Anyone else confused by the dizzying rearranging of the presidential candidates? And all this because they held a caucus in Iowa. Just wild.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to Richard Carter. The longtime writer of letters to the editor is profiled in today’s Daily Times. His story can act as an inspiration and blueprint in how to turn one’s life around. Good for him.


Quote Box: “It looked like a ghost town compared to 1980, just as 1980 looked like a ghost town compared to 1960.”

-- Richard Carter, talking about how the city of Chester looked to him on his return from a stint in jail.

Ring in the new

In the words of Michael Nutter, it’s a new day, and a new way.

And it’s not just in Philadelphia where new is the buzz word of the day.

Yes, Nutter this morning will take the oath, and begin sweeping away the vestiges of the scandal-ridden Street Administration. Nutter has made it clear that a priority for his administration will be to rid City Hall of the stench of “pay-to-play” that hounded John Street and several of his top aides and confidantes.

But take a look around. There are new things busting out all over.

Here in Delco, three new members of Delaware County Council will take the oath this morning.

Council Chairman Andy Reilly will leave the courthouse and return to his private law practice. Mike Puppio decided not to seek another term. Mary Alice Brennan is now a county judge.

In their place will be three new Republicans, Haverford Commissioner Andy Lewis, Springfield Commissioner Tom McGarrigle and Middletown Commissioner Christine Fizzano-Cannon.

That’s correct, three Republicans. While Democrats have made some clear advances in recent years, they have yet to crack the GOP stranglehold on the courthouse.

David Landau pounded the pavement for months ranting about his “Case Against the Courthouse.” Didn’t matter. He and his two running mates were vanquished. As were the two candidates seeking seats on the Court of Common Pleas. Brennan and longtime Magisterial District Judge Greg Mallon donned their new robes on Friday.

And finally, it’s a new day in presidential politics as well. There are two new front-runners heading into Tuesday night’s crucial New Hampshire primary, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee.

Amazingly, the twosome who had been leading their respective party’s packs are now on the ropes. Some pundits are now saying Republican Mitt Romey and Democrat Hillary Clinton must win in New Hampshire or face the possibility of being out of the race.


One other “new” thing to look for back here in Delco. As is the norm, most municipalities will reorganize tonight.

We hear there is going to be a doozy in Ridley Park, where Democrats have grabbed control of borough council and are in the process of “reorganizing” the positions of manager, solicitor and other plum jobs.

More on that one tomorrow.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 4

The Daily Numbers: 32 years of public service coming to end with announcement by Rep. Ron Raymond, R-162, that he will not seek another term. Raymond spent 24 years in the state House and was a councilman and mayor in Sharon Hill before that.

38 percent of Iowa caucus voters backing Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, 30 percent for John Edwards and 29 percent for Hillary Clinton.

34 percent on the Republican ledger going with Mike Huckabee, to just 25 percent for Mitt Romney.

4 days before the next stop on the campaign trail, the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.

18 degrees, the chilly temperature this morning.

62 the expected high next Tuesday. Talk about your temperature swings.

4,000 bucks stolen from a couple outside their Marple home by two men.

3.09 a gallon, average price of unleaded regular gas in the region these days.

1 teen girl who may have been abducted and raped as she was heading to school in Northeast Philly Thursday.

4 people injured in crash that followed a police chase in Levittown Thursday night.

4 million dollars in loan-loss provisions posted by Sun Bancorp.

5 fires that kept firefighters in New Castle County, Del., busy early Thursday. There were no injuries reported.

35 age of Delaware man busted by the Pennsylvania Internet Child Predator Unit. He is believed to have propositioned who he thought was a 12-year-old girl, but was in fact an undercover agent.

2,318,200 people who tuned into radio station B101 during their annual all Christmas music stint. That was their weekly audience.

38 points for the Villanova women last night as they got blown out by No. 1 UConn, 88-38.

1 Big East defeat for Villanova as they dropped their league opener on the road against Depaul.

1 losing season in 16 years for NFL teams employing Eagles G.M. Tom Heckert. He will interview with the Falcons on Monday.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
In addition to their usual NFC East foes, here are the Eagles opponents next year: Cardinals, Falcons, Browns, Steelers, Rams at home; Ravens, Bears, Bengals, 49ers, Seahawks on the road. Does that scare anyone? Playoffs here we come.

I Don’t Get It: Someone will have to explain to me why viable candidates drop out of the presidential race because they were rejected by voters in Iowa.


Today’s Upper: Don’t put away the golf clubs. Or maybe break them out if you have. We’re looking at a very early taste of spring, with temperatures in the 50s over the weekend and low 60s Monday and Tuesday.


Quote Box: “I don’t think what happens tonight is going to rule out any of the Democrats or Republicans who are in the top three”

-- Mallory Samson of Media, on Thursday night’s Iowa Caucus.

All about change, in Iowa and Delco

The people of spoken. All 240,000 of them who were expected to caucus in Iowa.
So what does it mean? Well, if you had hoped to vote for our neighbor, Democratic Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, you’re out of luck. He pulled the plug on his longshot campaign for the White House after a dismal showing. Same goes for Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

After campaigning for months, it’s amazing that this crucial decision can be made by so few people, in Iowa, of all places.

But the fact is that’s the way the game is played. The deck has been reshuffled and there are new front-runners in both parties.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., had a big day for the Democrats, rolling to a big win. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., can soldier on, bolstered by his second-place showing. It was a tough night for Hillary Clinton, who came in third.

On the Republican side, it was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who rolled up a monster win, despite being heavily outspent in the state by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Now the madness shifts to New Hampshire and next Tuesday’s primary. Of course that excludes this weekend’s little get-together in Wyoming.

There is one thing that should be said about what happened in Iowa. A largely white state reviewed the issues and gave their backing to an African-American candidate. That would be Obama.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I am guessing that would not have happened.
It says something about how far we’ve come as a country, that the matter of Obama’s race is something of an afterthought.

Obama has been clear that his campaign is all about change. Voters in Iowa certainly delivered that.

There is also political change in the works right here in Delaware County as well. Last week we learned state Sen. Connie Williams, who has represented parts of Haverford and Radnor for a decade, will not seek re-election.

Yesterday another thunderbolt was delivered from a longtime member of the Delco delegation in Harrisburg.

Rep. Ron Raymond, R-162, announced he would not be seek another stint representing the folks in Folcroft, Glenolden, Collingdale, Ridley, Ridley Park and Tinicum.
He’s been their guy in Harrisburg for 24 years.

This is no small thing. It will be another hit to the county’s clout in the state Capitol.

A confession here: I always liked Ron Raymond. He always struck me as an average guy. And that’s the philosophy he brought to public office. He was about nothing if not constituent services.

Candidates already are lining up to seek the seat. They have big shoes to fill.
We’ll miss Ron Raymond. Yes, we did endorse his Democratic opponent in the last election. It raised quite a few eyebrows when we backed Marilyn Woodman. That should not be considered a shot at Raymond, but rather a nod toward someone we considered a fresh face.

Now there will in fact be another fresh face representing a chunk of Delaware County in Harrisburg.

But the old one will be missed. Take care, Ron.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan. 3

The Daily Numbers: 3 million, how many people live in Iowa, which holds its presidential caucus tonight.

6 days until the first presidential primary, Tuesday in New Hampshire.

10 degrees, that’s what it feels like as you walk outside this morning.

60 degrees, that’s what the forecasters say we’ll approach on Monday and Tuesday. Somebody alert Al Gore.

3,500 students left without bus service yesterday morning after a stabbing incident in the bus yard for the William Penn School District. Normal service resumed for the afternoon.

45 million dollars in state aid toward a proposal to build a soccer stadium in Chester that could be blocked if a Lebanon County Republican gets her way.

500 million dollar development project along Chester’s waterfront that could go by the boards if the stadium is not built.

100 dollars a barrel, where crude oil was trading for a while yesterday. Yes, experts say we are going to be paying more at the pump.

4 bucks a gallon, what some forecasters predict we’ll be shelling out to fill up this summer. My guess would be just in time for the Memorial Day holiday.

50 bucks, what it will cost you to join the fun at the inaugural gala of new Philly Mayor Michael Nutter Monday night. About the cost of a tank full of regular unleaded.

2 suspects being sought in a brutal attack on an employee of legendary Geno’s Steaks in South Philly.

9 sex attacks on women in Camden, N.J., that police believe could be linked to the same suspect.

2 more murders in Philadelphia Wednesday night. That brings the city’s total for 2008 to 3. In just 3 days.

2 people found shot to death inside a home in Dover, Del.

1 kite surfer believed to be missing in the surf off Rehoboth Beach, Del. A massive search yesterday failed to turn up a body.

5 free throws drilled by former Sixer Kyle Korver in the final seconds last night to lead his new team, the Utah Jazz, to a 110-107 win over the 76ers.

.286 what reserve outfielder Chris Roberson hit last year for the Phils. Yesterday they sold him to the Orioles.

5 unrestricted free agents on the Eagles roster, headed by tight end L.J. Smith.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone trying to figure out what they are going to do this weekend without an Eagles playoff game to hold our interest? Want me to rub some salt in it? Why not watch Jeff Garcia lead the Bucs against the Giants. Yeah, I know, it hurts.

I Don’t Get It: Three days into the new year and 3 homicides in Philadelphia. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: While your teeth are chattering this morning, keep this in mind. They’re calling for temperatures near 60 on Monday and Tuesday. Breakout the golf clubs.


Quote Box: “Can you tell me who won in Iowa the last four elections?”

-- Delco GOP boss Tom McNichol, commenting on tonight’s Iowa Caucus.

All eyes on Iowa

The new year is three days old. The election is 11 months away.

But all eyes today focus on Iowa, which holds the kickoff to the presidential sweepstakes tonight with its caucuses.

I have just two questions:
How many of us, standing in front of a map of the United States, could correctly point out Iowa?

And is this any way to elect our president?

Please no I hold no grudge against Iowa, or its revered tradition of the presidential caucus.

But does it strike anyone else as just a tad odd that this small midwestern state holds such sway in a matter of such import?

I guess first there is the matter of the timing. The ball has barely dropped in Times Square and we’re already caucusing. The candidates have been scouring Iowa and New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary on Tuesday, seemingly since Thanksgiving. Wonder how Iowans liked having politics trample on their holiday season?

Iowa and New Hampshire. Not exactly big players on the national scene. Not exactly, for that matter, Pennsylvania.

But they will hold sway in presidential politics. We will not.

The commonly held belief is that those candidates who do not finish in the top three in either Iowa or New Hampshire may in fact be finished altogether.

That could mean the campaigns of people like Delaware Democrat Joe Biden could be over before they get started.

So tonight at about 7:30 our time, folks will start gathering in Iowa, a state of about 3 million people.

The last time they threw this shindig, 124,000 Democrats and 90,000 Republicans took part.

This isn’t a primary. The action is done in public. Sides are basically chosen up and factions backing a candidate stand in a corner of the many meeting rooms scattered across the state. They can last a couple of hours.

The caucuses will be followed by a huge traffic jam at the airport as candidates, their entourages and the media horde all look to put Iowa in their rear-view mirror and descend on New Hampshire for the weekend.

After that the biggie will be Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, when more then 20 states will hold their primaries and caucuses.

And what about Pennsylvania, you ask? When will the Keystone State get a chance to chime in? Don’t hold your breath. Our primary does not arrive until April 22.
You might be better off writing a letter to the editor. At least that opinion might still count.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Jan 2

The Daily Numbers: 3 hours, all the longer it took for Philadelphia to record its first homicide of 2008.

4 hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve when a Trainer resident was shot and killed in New Castle County, Del., in what is being described as a botched car theft.

46 people died in fires in Philadelphia in 2007. That’s down 10 percent from 2006.

50 people left homeless after fire roared through an apartment complex in Delran, N.J., overnight.

6 years in a row for Fralinger String Band to take top honors in the Mummers Parade.

1 man now dead as a result of a chase and shootout between a suspect and police in Montgomery County.

20 years in law enforcement now in the rear-view mirror for Montco D.A. Bruce Castor. He now becomes a county commissioner.

4 inches of snow that fell on western Pennsylvania on New Year’s Day. No, they have not yet made that area part of the “northern and western suburbs.”

100 stagehands at the Philadelphia Convention Center who could hit the bricks in a labor impasse.

1 minute into the new year when the first baby arrived, to a couple at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees, N.J.

1 hour and 6 minutes for a newborn to show up in Delaware County, to Samah Mohamed at Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

70, age of man attacked in a violent encounter at 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby.

2 teams that played yesterday who could easily have found themselves playing for a national title. That would be USC and Georgia, both of whom won easily.

6 more days before we decide the collegiate football championship when Ohio State and LSU clash in the Sugar Bowl.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone else think that game between the Sabres and Pens played outdoors in Buffalo amid swirling snow was pretty cool? Reminded me of playing pond hockey as a kid, without the 70,000 fans. Oh, I forgot, kids don’t play pond hockey anymore. They use their thumbs on Playstation instead. Sure is a lot warmer.

I Don’t Get It: Why do so many people insist on badmouthing the Mummers. Hey, at least it gives us a parade on Broad Street, something our sports teams don’t seem capable of doing.


Today’s Upper: If you don’t break into a strut when you hear those string bands then you’re not really into what the Philadelphia region is all about.


Quote Box: “We normally watch it on TV, but when the kids said they wanted to come down, I said we’ll come down this year.”

-- Melvin Mays of West Philadelphia, enjoying the Mummers Parade in Philly on New Year’s Day.

No end to the violence

So much for New Year’s resolutions.
On today’s editorial page, we pleaded for less violence in 2008.
We couldn’t even get the words into print – or posted on the Web site – before those intent on doing otherwise left their deadly marks.
The violence started on New Year’s Eve, and claimed the life of a Delaware County man even if the incident itself did not occur here.
Police in New Castle County, Del., believe Ira Graham, 50, of Trainer, was the victim of a shooting in Claymont.
Police reports indicate Graham was shot once in the upper body as he sat in a BMW on Peachtree Road near Cedar Tree Road. Graham was sitting with a friend in the car when they were approached by a person who chatted with them before getting into the car.
Graham, a passenger, was shot. The man is then believed to have fled on foot.
Graham was transported to the hospital, where he died.
His death put a final exclamation point on a violent 2007. Graham’s death brought New Castle County’s homicide total to 11 for the year. Here in Delaware County, 43 people were murder victims.
The singing of “Auld Lang Syne” did not exactly quell the violence.
In Philadelphia, where 392 people were killed in 2007 (incredibly that’s actually down from the year before), four people were shot in a confrontation with police in the early hours of the new year. One of the victims was a 9-year-old boy. It’s the same old story. Police believe New Year’s revelers were shooting weapons into the air.
The city notched its first homicide of 2008 just hours into the new year when a man was beaten and stabbed repeatedly during a street argument around 3 a.m.
Across the river in Camden, they recorded their first homicide in 2008 just nine hours into the new year.
So far in Delaware County, we have yet to record a murder. I am left to wonder how long that will last.
Maybe we should run a contest. I do not mean to make light of a serious issue. But I am just about out of ideas on how to stop our decline into a more and more violent society.
My wish is that we would not have to run a single story on someone being murdered on the streets of Delaware County in 2008. Reality tells me it likely won’t take that long.
Today we’ll be compiling the story of a county man slain just over the border in Delaware.
Just how long will it take before blood once again is spilled on our own streets?