Friday, February 29, 2008

The name game for Chester team

OK, the MLS team that is going to call Chester home is in need of a name.

You can find some information by by clicking here.

There is talk of a contest to help come up with the proper moniker. I hereby volunteer the services of the newspaper to help team owners gauge the pulse of the good folks here in Delco.

One of the things that pleased me the most about yesterday's festivities is that almost to a person, all those in attendance made note that this team in fact will call Chester home.

Not Philadelphia, right here in Delaware County.

Being the parochial newspaper editor who has been accused more than once of being something of a homer in this matter, I would love to see Chester or Delco represented in the team's name.

I also know it's not going to happen.

I'm not about to let that stop me. I have previously offered two possibilities.

One was a way to pay homage to another icon of Chester industry. After all, just down the road from the stadium is Harrah's Casino, which sits on the hallowed ground of the former Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.

So my idea? The Chester Sun. That one didn't sit too well with the fanatical members of the Sons of Ben, who roundly criticized that offering.

How about this as an alternative, something of a takeoff on the world's most famous soccer team.

Chester United.

It's perfect, unifying the city (which could sorely use it), as well as the region, and, oh yes, those fine denizens of Philadelphia who we expect to troop down I-95 to the games.

Having said that, I will tell you that the leaders in the clubhouse are something like Philadelphia Athletics or Philadelphia Independence.

You can check out some other possibilities on some of the by clicking here.

Have an idea for a name? Post it here. We'll be sure to forward them on to the team.

Here's some other info on how to contact the team.

Team Web Site:


Phone: (877) MLS-2010

Tickets: ($50 deposit for each seat, minimum of two, maximum six seats per account holder.)

Ticket information:

Supporter Web Site:

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 29

The Daily Numbers: 2:12 p.m. yesterday, when Chester became a Major League city again, with the announcement that Major League Soccer’s 16th franchise will call it home.

12 years it took for the soccer league to break into the Philadelphia market, the largest market in the nation that had not been represented.

27 years since professional soccer, in the form of the Atoms, was played in the Philadelphia area.

50 bucks, what it will cost you now to reserve your seat for when the team starts playing in 2010. Now word yet on how much tickets will cost.

2,500 season tickets already committed to by the Sons of Ben, the local soccer fanatics who have been pushing to lure a franchise here for years.

200 members of the group that descended on the Turbine Room at the Wharf at Rivertown for the festivities. Yes, they made their presence known.

200 additional jobs in Philadelphia planned by US Airways, which wants to open as many as 6 new gates at Philadelphia International.

23, age of youth soccer coach from Montgomery County who is going to jail for sending sexually explicit messages to a teen girl he met at a summer youth camp.

87, age of man a 29-year-old Upper Darby woman is accused of beating with a belt buckle. She was a health aide at a care facility in King of Prussia. He suffers from Alzheimer’s. Nice.

52, age of former fire chief in New Jersey charged with sexually assaulting several juveniles ranging in age from 12 to 16.

9 percent dip in profits for Citizens Financial Group, the people that run Citizens Bank. Guess they won’t be buying naming rights for the Chester stadium.

80 million of the 90 million dollar goal raised by Episcopal Academy. They’re building a new campus in Newtown Square.

11 new tanks that will be constructed by Magellan Midstream Partners at the Port of Wilmington. They will store gas there for Wawa stores.

72 teacher vacancies in the Philadelphia School District. There are more than 10,000 teachers in the district.

0 events this summer at the Robin Hood Dell East center in Philly. It will be closed for repairs. It’s hit a sour note with a lot of people.

4 suspects who have been charged with an attack on two young Jewish men on the Temple University campus.

16 million bucks the city is hoping to raise for parks and street repairs by hiking parking taxes. Council now also is targeting some valet parking operators, who they claim are not reporting all their income in a way to get around the tax.

2 dozen rooftop burglaries in Pa. and New Jersey that police now believe may be the work of twin brothers who also star in a series of gay porn videos.

1 of every 100 adults in America now resides behind bars.

1,200 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade headquartered at Fort Indiantown Gap that could be headed for Iraq.

2 straight wins for the Flyers, who polished off the Ottawa Senators last night, 3-1.

1 massive blast already this spring for Ryan Howard, who deposited a pitch in the swamp beyond the right-field fence at Bright House Field yesterday.

0 free agents signed as of 8 a.m. by the Eagles. Look for them to make a splash, including the much-rumored signing of Patriots DB Asante Samuel.

1 less perenially injured defense end, after the Birds cut Jevon Kearse yesterday. Can you say Freak Out?

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So what are people talking about today? Phillies, Eagles and free agency, or soccer in Chester.

I Don’t Get It: The kid who was lauded by many, including President Bush, for blowing the whistle on his friend’s planned Columbine-style attack on Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School is now in trouble with the law. He and a couple of his pals are charged with breaking into the home of the kid charged in the plot. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Chester, a major league town. Ya gotta love it.


Quote Box: “Timing in life is everything and the time is right today to bring soccer to Philadelphia.”

-- Nick Sakiewicz, the CEO of the planned MLS team that will play in Chester, at yesterday’s announcement.

One giant leap for Chester

Today is Leap Day. And it’s never been more appropriate for the only city in Delaware County.

Yesterday Chester took one giant leap forward. You might say it became a major league city again.

Especially if you happen to be a soccer fan.

At exactly 2:12 p.m. Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber strode to the microphone and confirmed what has to be one of the worst-kept secrets in sports history. The city of Chester has been awarded the 16th franchise in MLS history.

I keep trying to get a grip on just how momentous a day this was for Chester.
I think maybe that was best indicated by one of the seemingly endless parade of local, county and state officials who took turns at the microphone to welcome the sports world to Delaware County.

It was something that state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, said that struck a chord with me.

Pileggi knows a little something about Chester. He served as its mayor. He knows what the city once was, how far it declined, and he played a large part in planting the seeds to the economic rebirth now starting to bloom in the city.

Pileggi has lived in the city for half a century.

“I’ve never seen a day like today,” he admitted.

I feel the same way. There are a lot of people who believe that part of the city’s perception problem stems from the way it is too often portrayed in the county’s daily newspaper. There is probably a grain of truth in that.

Don’t get me wrong. Chester still has serious problems.

But to claim that an equally serious turnaround there is not underway is simply to ignore the obvious. Yesterday’s announcement that an MLS franchise will play its games in a $115 million stadium to be built in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge is the crown jewel in that economic renaissance.

This newspaper has been a big proponent of the stadium project. I said so again last night on WPHT Talk Radio 1210. Host Dom Giordano asked me to come to talk about the stadium. He’s not a big fan of this kind of “boondoggle,” especially when it comes to using a big chunk of public funds to do it.

I disagree, and offered my reasons why.

The truth is if this was just a stadium, I probably still would be in favor of it. Anything that helps the city of Chester is a good thing in my book. But this is much more than just a stadium.

The owners/developers will use the stadium as the linchpin of a $500 million development along the riverfront that will make the city of Chester a destination point, and something to rival anything available in Wilmington or Camden.
Not everyone agrees. I don’t expect them to.

In the meantime, Chester once again is a ‘Major League’ city.
First-class, as Gov. Ed Rendell suggested in his comments.

Feb. 29.
Make that one giant leap for Chester.
Just so everyone will not feel as if I've become a total 'homer' for this project, I will point out this bit of irony.

There are 15 public high schools in Delaware County. There are 14 boys soccer teams.

Guess which school does not have one? The once the 16th franchise in Major League Soccer will call home.

I hope that changes. The kids in Chester deserve better.

The Stadium by the Numbers

For those of you who are regular readers, you know that most days I put something together called ‘The Daily Numbers.’

Here’s a special version taking a look at some of the numbers tied to the stadium development along the Chester riverfront that was announced yesterday.

115 million dollar price tag, including $47 million in state funds and $30 million from the county.

18,500 seats.

60 acres.

1,000 construction jobs.

1 million man hours to build.

360 permanent jobs at stadium.

800 jobs at surrounding office complex.

500 million dollar total for planned riverfront project, of which the stadium is just one part.

200,000 -square-foot convention center.

44,215 square feet of retail space.

435,000 square feet of office space.

386 town homes.

225 apartments.

1 Major League Soccer franchise to play in the stadium.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How to get tickets

Here's a Q&A Section that will answer a lot of questions about how to get tickets.

One thing we don't know as yet.

How much will tickets cost. Sounds like they are trying to make if affordable for all types of fans, however.

Philly MLS Web site

Here's a cool site with some more info about the new MLS team in Chester.

Guess I'm going to have to resign myself to the idea that this team will be referred to as a Philadelphia entity, even if they play their games in Chester.

I will say, however, that I was fairly impressed with the mention and play that the city received by all those involved in today's festivities.

Name that Team!

2:23 Gov. Ed Rendell announces Chester will return to being a first class city again and also announces team has committed to a contest to name the team?

My two entries? Chester Sun,

or how about Chester United.

Yes, I know I'm a homer. But I want to be sure everyone knows this team is going to pay its games in the city of Chester.

2:40 A small parade of Delco officials talking about Chester and soccer. Sen. Dominic Pileggi, state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, County Councilman Jack Whelan and now the guy who will actually be running the team, Nick Sakiewicz.

It's a party.

The festivities end with Bryan James, president of the Sons of Ben local soccer fanatics, presenting special scarves to each owner. They emplazoned with Chester 2010. Well done, Bryan.


Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber makes if official at exactly 2:12 p.m.

The Philadlephia region gets the 16th franchise in the MLS.

Packed house in Turbine Room at Wharf at Rivertown goes bonkers.

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 28

The Daily Numbers: 140 feet above Folcroft, where two Peco workers found themselves stranded until they were snatched by a Coast Guard helicopter rescue team.

7 months since word first leaked out about a proposal to build a soccer stadium in Chester. Major League Soccer will be in town today to award the city of Chester its 16th franchise.

2,500 season tickets for the team’s games that the Sons of Ben, a group of local soccer fanatics, has pledged to buy for the games.

115 million dollars, the price tag for the stadium, including $47 million from the state and $30 million from the county.

0 real estate taxes the stadium/team investors will pay until 2013. The site sits in the city’s Keystone Opportunity Zone, set up to spur economic development.

360 permanent jobs expected to be created by the stadium, in addition to hundreds of construction jobs to build the joint.

60 acres along the waterfront just south of the Commodore Barry Bridge, where the sprawling office-entertainment-residential development tied to the stadium project will sit.

160 e-mails that officials in the Spring-Ford School District say a teacher sent to a 13-year-old female student. They have severed ties with the teacher.

100,000 dollars in fur coats believed ripped off from high-end shops in the Suburban Square Shopping Center in Ardmore by a big-time burglary ring.

200,000 bucks for the war on drugs picked up by Delco District Attorney G. Michael Green from the U.S. attorney yesterday.

280 million dollar contract to build 11 new CH-47F Chinook helicopters at the Boeing plant in Ridley.

3 percent dip in net income being reported by Aqua America Inc., one of the biggest water suppliers in the region.

13 million dollars being paid for the Gateway Corporate Center off Route 202 in Chadds Ford.

6 point lead for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, according to new Quinnipiac University poll. She now leads Barack Obama 49-43 percent. She led by 16 points just two weeks ago.

34,000 dollars in fraudulent checks that police allege neighbors wrote out in the name of a Feltonville man who died last April.

85,000 more union jobs reported in Pennsylvania last year. The total of union jobs in the state now stands at 830,000.

153 million jobs now up for grabs in Saturday night’s Powerball drawing.

24, age of man now wanted in the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old in Philadelphia. The incident was sparked by a snowball fight.

8,000 bats in the Northeast states that have been killed by a mysterious disease. This has the makings of a horror movie.

18 pound chunk of ice that was thrown from a bridge in Allentown, killing a woman when it went through the windshield of her car. The 15-year-old convicted in the case will leave prison on May 13, his 21st birthday.

1,500 students who went on a rampage in Reading yesterday when an after-school gathering got out of control.

68 employees laid off by Philadelphia Newspaper Holdings, the company that owns the Inquirer and Daily News. Not good times in the news racket.

7 straight home wins for the Sixers, who took out the Magic, 101-89, at the Wachovia Center last night.

8 runs pounded out by the Phillies in their Grapefruit League opener yesterday, a resounding win over the Reds.

1 hit and 0 runs given up by Phils starter Jamie Moyer in 3 innings.

1 as in first place, for the Ottawa Senators. They fired their coach yesterday despite being atop the Eastern Conference.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Don’t look now, but more people are talking about the Phillies’ opening day pitcher than are blabbing about the Eagles’ prospects in free agency. This is a baseball town again!

I Don’t Get It: Cable giant Comcast yesterday admitted they paid a lot of people to sit in the seats at a government hearing. They say they did it because they heard their critics planned a strong showing.


Today’s Upper: The war on drugs got a big shot in the arm yesterday when Delco D.A. Mike Green took a trip downtown to pick up some federal money to target problems in what is referred to as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.


Quote Box: “It starts breaking down that old perception of what the city was in 1985. I think it gives us a chance to say there’s hope and this brand is on the way up.”

-- Dr. Brian Larson, associate professor of marketing at Widener University in Chester, on the continued economic development along the city’s waterfront, which today will include announcement of a new 18,500-seat stadium in which a Major League Soccer franchise will play its games.

A big day in Chester -- and Folcroft

Welcome to confessions of a newspaper editor.

Today is a day I’ve been waiting on for a long time.

It was last summer, July in fact, that I got my first call from a staffer with some fairly startling news out of Chester.

He explained a group of investors had been in talks with the county to build a soccer stadium along the city’s waterfront. I tried not to giggle. Or ask him if he had been drinking.

He wasn’t joking. And in very short order laid out the plan. The stadium would be built to lure a Major League Soccer franchise to the region.

I’ll believe it when I see it, I muttered to myself.

This afternoon I will see it. We all will.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber will stride to a microphone today at the majestic Turbine Hall in the Wharf at Rivertown and announce that the league’s 16th franchise will play its games not far away at a site literally in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

Chester is about to become a major league city again.

This newspaper has spent no small amount of time and manpower tracking this story. There are some members of my staff who believe I am more than a bit obsessed with it.
We have been a strong booster of the project, not only of the idea of an MLS franchise coming to Chester, but of building the stadium, which includes a big chunk of public funds.

The $115 million project includes $30 million from the county and $47 million from the state. Not exactly chump change. Not everyone believes this is the correct use of public funding, nor the right way to spark economic development in depressed areas such as Chester.

But I believe it will be worth every penny.

The stadium will be the centerpiece of a $500 million development that will turn the Chester waterfront into a destination point, replete with high-end shops, restaurants and residences.

We had been hinting for about a week that the deal likely would be announced at a press conference today. Getting someone on the record to tell us that was another matter. It was for the most part all nods and winks, but no one wanted their name with it.

That changed at about 2 p.m. yesterday when the advisory on the press conference went out. We actually posted the story on our Web site, with the expected announcement, yesterday morning. Then we updated it with the official announcement.

As you might expect, I have been thinking for some time now of just how to present this story on our front page. It’s what I do. I see every story as a possible front page. I knew this was a big deal, and I know we had spent considerable time chasing it down. I wanted to be sure we gave it the proper “oomph” on our Page One.

But it’s a funny thing about news. It almost never respects how much planning you have put into a certain project. So I started to fret a bit yesterday when we first got word that two Peco workers were stranded on a pole about 150 feet over Folcroft.
I had a feeling this was going to be a good story. It was. It also had something else. It was visual. That’s something we take into consideration when we make up Page One, what kind of image we’ll be able to use with the headlines we select.
Then I heard that a Coast Guard helicopter was being dispatched from Atlantic City to snatch the two stranded workers from their lonely perch.

My graphics editor hates situations like this. He spends a lot of time and effort to take my idea and create a really stunning front page, then I tell him to tear it up and start over.

Once we saw the photos from the rescue, it really became a fairly easy decision. They were stunning. We would use the photo of one of the workers being hauled up to the copter from his perch as our lead, along with the headline “High Wire Act.”
It’s a pretty compelling front page.

We didn’t forget about the historic soccer announcement. That’s it up there in the top left corner of the page.

And we’ll be all over the announcement that Chester is a major league town again for tomorrow’s newspaper.

It’s a pretty good bet that story will dominate our front page.
Depending, of course, on what happens later today.

In this business, as I learned again yesterday, you just never know.

I guess that’s why they call it “news.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 27

The Daily Numbers: 3.89 price of diesel fuel in the region. It’s putting a huge pinch on local trucking firms. Expect those prices to show up in what you pay for just about everything.

3.13 average price for unleaded regular gasoline in the Philly region. Driving a car isn’t exactly cheap, either. Get used to walking.

102 dollars a barrel, price of crude oil yesterday. Don’t expect prices to come down anytime soon. Yep, spring can’t be far away.

12 percent hike in ridership on the regional rails reported by SEPTA. Hey, some people obviously are getting out of their cars.

800,000 to 1 million dollars the Chester Upland School District is looking to get its hands on from the personal income tax collected by the city. That move is being opposed by city officials.

36 age of woman who walked out of her job in Springfield and has not been seen since. Susanne Davis of Darby Township has not been seen since she left the Value City store on Saturday.

33 years of service for county Clerk Joyce Lamont, who is retiring. We wish her the best. She’s earned it in three decades as a fixture in the Delco Courthouse.

1 Brookhaven resident who now sits on the Penn-Delco School Board. The board was made up of 9 Aston residents until the board Tuesday night appointed Kathleen Ieradi to fill the seat vacated by former board President Dave Seitz.

25 bucks, what you can expect to shell out if you want to check more than one bag on a US Airways flight. The airline announced it will slap a $25 fee on each additional bag.

20,000 dollar jackpots believed to routinely be up for grabs in a high-stakes poker ring busted up in Delaware. And the games, held in the basement of a high-end home, had a twist. Players would be served drinks by topless women. A new twist on strip poker, I guess.

88 years old, age of man in Chester County swindled out of $26,000 in cash and jewelry when he let thives into his house posing as utility workers.

60 age of respected Montgomery photographer who now faces charges that he lifted a customer’s wallet while he was snapping pix at a bat mitzvah.

2 rapes reported in a dorm an hour apart on the campus of Kutztown University.

4 teens arrested in the wave of vandalism that has targeted churches in Bucks County.

7 people arrested in a brawl at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Philadelphia yesterday.

180,000 bucks a year, salary for the next chief operations officer at the Delaware River Port Authority. They’re the people who just kicked in $10 million to the Chester stadium project.

2 soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

4.7 magnitude quake that rocked Britain early today. No injuries. Some minor damage. Not believed related to news that Beckham and Posh soon will be visiting Chester.

3 hours without their espresso fix for customers of Starbucks Wednesday night. The chain shut down all its shops to re-train its baristas. Now they’re going to make a money-back guarantee on their concoctions. You don’t like it, they’ll fix you another one.

2 million people who were without power for hours yesterday afternoon in South Florida when a glitch at a substation sparked widespread blackouts.

1:05 p.m., time of first pitch of Phillies Grapefruit League opener against the Reds.

29 point win last night for the girls from Delco Christian, who overwhelmed Hanover, 64-35, in a PIAA AA girls hoops playoff game.

800 wins in her stellar coaching career for Rutgers women’s hoops boss C. Vivian Stringer. She started her career at Cheyney.

0 deals at the trade deadline for the Flyers, who acquired high-scoring winger Vinnie Prospal the night before.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The baseball season starts today in Clearwater when the Phils kick off their exhibition schedule against the Reds. Bring on the Mets.

I Don’t Get It: Someone explain to me why the Phils are bypassing Cole Hamels in favor of Brett Myers to pitch the season opener.


Today’s Upper: Starting Saturday police in New Jersey will be able to write a ticket to anyone they observe driving while using a hand-held cell phone. Good.


Quote Box: “When I leave the pump, it kills me. It’s really putting a stress on my business.”

-- Robert Link, owner of B&K Moving & Hauling Inc. of Havertown, on the skyrocketing cost of diesel fuel that his business depends on.

24 hours and counting

We are now just about 24 hours away from one of the biggest – and most anticipated – announcements in county history.

We only need one more thing.

Someone to say it’s actually going to happen.

If I was a betting man, I would put the house on all assortment of local and state dignitaries gathering on the Chester waterfront tomorrow afternoon.

I would think our local odd couple, the Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Republican state Senator (and former Chester Mayor) Dominic Pileggi will be on hand. So will Mayor Wendell Butler.

They will be joined by a multitude all expecting the top brass from Major League Soccer to formally announce one of the worst-kept secrets in sports history.

The city of Chester will be home to the league’s 16th expansion franchise, which will likely begin play in the 2010 season.

Yes, it will represent the Philadelphia region, but it will play its games in a $115 million stadium to be built on the Chester waterfront.

All the key players in the team and stadium development will be there. Jim Nevels, the former head of the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia who heads the Swarthmore Group financial advisers. So will Jay Sugarman, the big money guy from New York who is the leader of the group. Also all the folks from the Buccini-Pollin Group. They’re the ones who are planning to construct a $500 million development of shops, restaurants and high-end housing, all in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

Now will someone please tell us – officially – that this is in fact going to happen.
We’ve gotten lots of winks and nods about “something” happening on Feb. 28. We’ve actually had one person close to the deal tell us it “definitely” will happen on Thursday. Of course, that person “definitely” did not want to go on the record.

There is still no word from Major League Soccer. No advisory alerting us to a press conference on Thursday.

The latest is a mention on a Web forum frequented by the members of the Sons of Ben. They’re the local group of soccer fanatics who have been pushing to land a team now for years.

They’re all turning blue in the face waiting for official word that what they have been waiting for is actually going to happen Thursday.

Apparently there was some kind of meet and greet Tuesday night at which Nick Sakiewicz, the man hired to run the operations of the as-yet unannounced team, hinted at something big happening on Thursday. You can check it out here.

The suspense is killing us.

But I think it will all be worth the wait. I guess I can last another 24 hours.


For starters, a baffling move by Phils

Yes, I know it’s a little early to deal with a sports topic. I usually handle that one in the ‘Daily Numbers’ feature, where I lament about why it’s so hard to be a Philadelphia sports fan.

Which brings me to the issue of the day. The Phillies open their exhibition season in Clearwater today. First pitch is about 1 o’clock.

And that means we are exactly 32 days away from the season opener.

If you want to mark your calendars, that would be Monday, March 31.

If you wanted to see Cole Hamels stride to the mound in his role as the ace of the Phillies staff, don’t bother.

He’s not pitching the opener. Brett Myers is. That announcement was made by skipper Charlie Manuel yesterday. Exactly why the Phils are bypassing their young stud Hamels in favor of Myers is something of a mystery.

Maybe they want to keep the mojo going. After all, the highlight of last season was Myers tossing his glove into the air on the last day of the season after sealing the deal as the team ended their long playoff drought by winning the N.L. East. Maybe it’s a reward for the way Myers has handled the way the team has shuffled him from starter (he was the opening day pitcher last year as well), to his role as closer in the bullpen, and now back to the starting rotation. Who knows?

If that one doesn’t have your head spinning, try this one out. As the rotation sets up now, neither Myers nor Hamels would be due to pitch in the first series against the Mets, which comes in the first week of April.

Just thought I’d make your day, sports fans.

The center of the political universe?

Brace your self for another troop surge.

This one does not have anything with Iraq. It has everything to do with the war for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the role Pennsylvania could play in it.

In short, the Keystone State could be the key player in deciding the knock-down, drag-out affair between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

Of course that likely depends in no small part on whether Clinton can halt the Obama Express that has run off 11 straight primary wins.

It is now critical for Clinton to win big next Tuesday when voters in Ohio and Texas go to the polls. She must win one state and likely needs both.

Then all eyes will turn to Pennsylvania, which will become the center of the political universe for seven weeks until the Pennsylvania Primary April 22.

Both camps are already starting to move their ground organizations into the state.

It’s likely that we could see appearances – possibly several – by both candidates here in the supremely important Philadelphia suburbs.

The bitter race already has made some strange bedfellows here in Delaware County.
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont was an early backer of Hillary Clinton. He still is. So is county Democratic co-chair Mary Ellen Balchunis.

But Delco Democratic Party boss Cliff Wilson is in Obama’s camp, as is Marple leader Tony Campisi. They’re joined by new state Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161.

Just this week Democratic leaders in Darby Borough announced they were backing Obama.
This one could result in trench warfare. And that’s just within the party. In the meantime, Republicans will sit back and watch as their Democratic brethren go at it hammer and tong.

Who knew when we lamented the date of our primary, the fact that it was so late in the process, that it could end up deciding the Democratic nominee.

Keep your seat belts buckled, Dems. This one could be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 26

The Daily Numbers: 47 age of man shot and killed in what police believe was a domestic disturbance in Darby Township. The victim’s 32-year-old stepson is in custody.

148,000 dollars, salary of new William Penn School District Superintendent Joseph Bruni. The board voted 7-2 to make him the new schools boss Monday night.

50 to 60 billion dollars in student loans that could be in danger because of the nation’s growing credit crunch, according to PHEAA boss state Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield.

3.72 a gallon, what truckers are paying for diesel fuel in the Philadelphia region. That’s a record high price.

18 million bucks, what a Philadelphia jury awarded a former medical student for a fall through a manhole.

7 age of student who police say brought 2.5 ounces of crack cocaine to school Monday in Trenton, N.J.

2 hour delays for a couple dozen schools in the Allentown area, which is getting a slick coating of freezing rain. No problem in this area.

10 percent hike in what it will cost for a cab ride in Philly, under rate hike OK’d Monday. The flag drop price will remain at a base of $2.70, but charges for mileage and waiting time are going up.

11 students at Masterman Middle and High School in Philadelphia who were jumped outside the school Monday afternoon. They were attacked by an unidentified group of youths.

1 to 7 years in jail for a man convicted of leaving a Bucks County bar and then ran over a motorcyclist. The man is still recovering from his injuries. The driver was convicted of a hit-and-run charge.

16 point lead for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in a new CBS poll.

54 percent of Democratic voters now in the Obama camp, as opposed to 38 percent for Clinton.

67 percent of men who are supporting the Illinois senator, as opposed to 28 percent backing the former wife of President Bill Clinton.

19 billion dollars, what is expected to be raised in the largest-ever U.S. initial public stock offering, this one being done by credit card giant Visa.

3,800 jobs being slashed in its corporate telecom unit by German company Siemens AG.

4 trillion dollar increase, the expected rise in health care costs next year. That amounts to one of every $5 the country spends.

73 percent of drivers who admitted using a cell phone while they’re behind the wheel. Another 20 percent admit to texting while driving. A New Jersey law that goes into effect Saturday would allow police to stop those using a hand-held cell phone while driving.

8 Catholic League crowns in 14 seasons for O’Hara girls hoops coach Linus McGinty. Last night’s also was likely the last of its kind. The teams compete in the PIAA next year.

6 times in the last 10 seasons O’Hara has faced Carroll in the final. The series is even at 3-3.

0 for 7 from three-point range in the second half last night as Villanova fell to Marquette at the Wachovia Center. It might keep ‘Nova out of the NCAA Tourney.

1 million bucks, that Peter Forsberg got from the Colorado Avalanche to join them for the rest of the NHL season.

10 game losing streak snapped by the Flyers last night as they beat the Sabres, 4-3, in a shootout.

29 goals and 28 assists for forward Vinny Prospal, who the Flyers acquired from Tampa last night. That’s 29 more goals than Peter Forsberg has scored this year.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Is there anything better than championship high school basketball at the Palestra?

I Don’t Get It: Since when does one of those passages of youth, a snowball fight, cost you your life. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Delaware is teaming up with Comcast to turn up the heat on fugitives. The cable giant is allowing police to post info on wanted criminals on their On-Demand channels. We could use that in Pa.


Quote Box: “This is the height of arrogance from an out-of-control agency that is now trying to stifle whistleblowers, intimidate union members and discredit controllers’ commitment to safety.”

-- Patrick Forrey, national president of the air traffic controllers union, blasting comments made by an FAA spokesman concerning issues surrounding flight path changes at the airport.

Snowballing out of control

Remember when a snowball fight was part of the innocence of youth? I do.

I also will tell you that my targets were not always other kids. Yes, I threw more than my share of snowballs at people, cars and lots of other things. What can I say, I was a knucklehead.

Luckily, a lot of the things I did as a kid never had much in the way of serious repercussions.

I never once ever thought a snowball fight could put me in any danger, let alone cost me my life.

Today we know otherwise.

In Philadelphia this week, what started as a fairly innocent snowball fight cost a 15-year-old kid his life.

Yes, you’re not the only one shaking your head.

What exactly happened on the 4800 block of D Street in Feltonville, is not clear. Some say a man was hit in the face with a snowball. Another version is that a youth was hit and then complained to the man.

Apparently the man left, then returned with a gun. Police believe he shot 15-year-old Teven Rutledge. The teen was rushed to the hospital, where he died several hours later.

Oh, and one other thing. It was Rutledge’s birthday.


More airport turbulence

Speaking of things that aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, the turbulence continues to rumble around Philadelphia International Airport.

This time it isn’t coming from the air, and the noise of jets redirected over heavily populated areas of Delaware County. It’s happening on the ground, and it pits local Congressman Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, along with a group of air traffic controllers, against the Federal Aviation Administration.

You might remember that it was just last week that Sestak and the controllers held a press conference to blast the federal agency for the way they have implemented the flight path changes at the airport, part of the hated redesign plan targeting chronic delays at airports in the Northeast part of the country.

Bottom line is the controllers aired what they believed were safety problems in the training and the way the program was put into practice.

When those concerns were relayed to the FAA, their spokesman fired back, insisting there was nothing unsafe about the new plans and that adequate training had been offered.

But that’s not all.

Jim Peters, the FAA’s regional spokesman, hinted that the move by the controllers to oppose the flight path changes is rooted in some sour grapes over the new contract implemented by the FAA in September 2006.

He bristled at any suggestion that the new flight path plans are unsafe, calling them “outrageous.”

He also offered a little career advice for any controller who believes otherwise.
“If any controller at the Philadelphia airport believes that these procedures are unsafe, they should look for work elsewhere,” he said.

That isn’t sitting too well with either Sestak or the air traffic controllers.
Yesterday they held another press conference to label the FAA as a “rogue agency” that is “out of control.”

It’s familiar turf for Sestak, who along with County Council has led the charge against the airport redistricting plan. One of the themes he has pounded away at is his belief that the FAA has been “unaccountable” throughout the process.

It’s for that reason that he asked the Government Accountability Office to review the process the FAA used in formulating the redesign plan. It was originally hoped that might delay implementation of the changes. That didn’t work.

Now both sides continue to lob pot shots at each other.

The FAA is standing by its belief that the new flight paths are safe. An FAA spokeswoman in Washington said the agency welcomed “legitimate safety concerns, but the information has to be factual.” The clear indication is that the claims made by Sestak and the controllers simply aren’t accurate.

The controllers, as well as Sestak, are vowing not to go away, or back down.

“They have been arrogant, contemptuous in their comments, sarcastic at best,” Sestak said. “It really is a rogue agency.”

Patrick Forrey, the national president of NATCA, said his group is not backing down, nor are they going away.

Yep, the turbulence surrounding the airport doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Another chapter of Life in the Fast Lane

Let’s get to the important news first today. That’s right, it’s time for an Alycia Lane update.

It looks like the former Channel 3 anchor is off the hook for her much-publicized run-in with the gendarmes in the Big Apple back before Christmas.

A contrite Lane appeared in a New York City courtroom Monday and entered into a special program in which the charges filed against her will be dismissed – if she manages to steer clear of trouble for the next six months.

Of course, that has not always been a lock in Lane’s case. Her career in Philadelphia was accompanied by somewhat frequent visits to the gossip columns.
“I just want to say I’m so glad this is over,” Lane said yesterday as she left court surrounded by family, her lawyer and her new pal, Philly radio D.J. Chris Booker.
That makes two of us.

I always thought all the commotion surrounding Lane was a little bit silly. But it speaks to the celebrity status in which we hold those who bring the news into our homes every night on TV.

Trust me, the same does not hold true for newspapers. They also make a little more than we do for the most part. Which I am not exactly sure does not figure into the way they are treated in print when they run afoul of the law.

The truth is I think Lane probably got a bum deal in the way this thing played out. She steadfastly denied the charges, that she dropped a sexual slur on a female officer and then got physical with her after a street confrontation. Her denials never got the play that the charges did.

Our own TV columnist found his musings blasted all over another media outlet in Philly after he suggested that maybe things were not exactly as they had been portrayed by the New York cops, and that there was something of a rush to judgment against Lane.

Then again, all she has to do now is keep her nose clean and she’s off the hook.
The bottom line is that she has paid a heavy price already for getting out of that car, something by the way she never should have done.

It cost her a $700,000 gig as a local TV news anchor. She is mulling a wrongful termination suit against the station.

Here’s hoping she doesn’t go ahead with it. Here’s hoping she simply tries to put her life and career back together after this latest trip into the “fast Lane.”
My guess is that’s not the way this will play out. In fact, I would venture we have not heard the last from Lane.

As they say in the business, stay tuned.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The print column: About that presidential 'race'

Here's a look at this week's print column.
Pennsylvania is off to the races. In more ways than one.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is once again threatening to flip the “on-again, off-again” importance of the Pennsylvania Primary into the “off” position with his incredible streak of 10 straight primary wins.

Let’s review. Initially, voices across Pennsylvania were raised in anger as we sat idly by and watched a parade of voters in other states stroll into the voting booths and have their voices noted in presidential primaries.

About all Keystone State voters could do was stew about the late Pennsylvania Primary on April 22. It was widely believed that would be too late to have much influence on the two parties’ nominees.

Then a funny thing happened. Obama started winning. And he hasn’t stopped. The pundits looked at the calendar and started circling the April 22 fireworks in Pennsylvania. Suddenly, at least for Democrats, people were calling the Keystone State as the “Key” to the nomination.

But Obama didn’t get the message. He kept right on winning. The guy is hotter than the Phillies preseason expectations.

Now, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who most early polls showed with a commanding national lead over Obama, is trying desperately to avoid becoming roadkill under the Barack Express.

Most experts believe she needs to win big on March 4 in Ohio and Texas to keep her campaign viable. If she does, then all eyes will turn to Pennsylvania.
All tongues, as well.

As you might expect, the demarcation lines are being drawn across the state.
In case you haven’t noticed, regardless of who emerges victorious in the Democratic donnybrook, the party will make some history, nominating either the first woman or first African-American to lead a major party ticket in U.S. history.

That has not escaped our fearless governor, Ed Rendell. “Fast Eddie” is firmly in Hillary’s camp. During a recent sit-down with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he pointed out his belief that some white Pennsylvanians simply will not vote for Obama because he is black.

This is where you insert the memorable line uttered by James Carville in describing Pennsylvania as being Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.
Very funny. I think Rendell was foolish for uttering such a remark, knowing full well the brouhaha that would inevitably follow.

I’d like to think we’re better than that. I’d like to think this contest will not be decided by gender or the color of a candidate’s skin.

But there’s a part of me that believes that whatever the numbers, there are indeed people who think exactly as Rendell opined.

Last week, I talked to several of them.

On Tuesday, we led the paper with a story on several Delaware County Democratic leaders announcing their support for Obama. It dominated our front page, with a picture of the candidate, as well as one from a local rally held in the county to push his candidacy. The lead headline screamed, “Obama-Mania.”

Several readers called to complain about our coverage. They didn’t like the front page, or the story inside for that matter. They believed it was inaccurate and biased in favor of Obama.

I had an idea where this was going. I wasn’t wrong.

“Are you the person responsible for the front page?” one gentleman asked. I assured him I was. “I’m surprised,” he replied. “You should find a new line of work. Your headline is wrong.”

I took another look at it and then asked him what he meant.

“You say, ‘Delco Democratic leaders line up behind the man from Illinois.’ That’s not correct. These people are all from Chester.”

Now I understood. Unfortunately.

Our lead story indicated county Democratic Chairman Cliff Wilson was backing Obama. He was joined by state Rep. Bryan Lentz, from Swarthmore, and party First Vice Chairman Tony Campisi, or Marple.

It was not a formal endorsement. It wasn’t even unanimous. Party Vice Chairman Mary Ellen Balchunis is backing Clinton. So is U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.

We had a second story on a rally held by Wilson and others that night. It was held in Chester. The reader did not try to hide the connection he was making.

Several other callers made a similar argument. It wasn’t the party leaders backing Obama, it was just people in Chester. This despite the fact that the story clearly points out the diversity of the crowd in attendance, that they arrived in Chester from Springfield, Upper Darby, Norwood and Marple to voice their support for the senator from Illinois.

Having said this, I will tell you I have reservations of my own concerning Obama. And Clinton as well, for that matter. But they have nothing to do with the color of his skin or her gender.

The campaign trail is likely to get even bumpier over the next two months. My hope is that we can rise above such matters. My fear is that we’ll do just the opposite.
Race to the finish? Sounds about right.

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

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 25

The Daily Numbers: 4 Academy Awards for the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” including Best Picture.

4 top acting awards, all which went to Europeans, setting the theme for the evening.

3 more days until the expected announcement by Major League Soccer that they are awarding a franchise to the city of Chester.

4 persons of interest being sought in connection with a fatal shooting in the parking lot of a Concord nightspot.

16, age of kid who was shot in Philadelphia when a friendly snowball fight took an ugly turn Sunday afternoon.

265 million dollar dip in the reserves in the state lottery surplus fund. Some state officials are blaming the advent of slot machines for the decline in lottery revenues.

4 people injured, including a Philadelphia police officer, when a cruiser collided with another car in the city’s Logan section Sunday morning.

3 story leap from a window onto South Street by a woman who was trying to flee a man who entered her apartment and attacked her.

140 acres of parkland in Quakertown that could go smoke-free as the town mulls a new smoking ban on the property.

41 people injured when a Greyhound bus overturned on I-380 in northeastern Pennsylvania Sunday.

200,000 dollar settlement in the case of an Allentown college that has closed its doors. A lot of families that got steered into high-interest loans are not satisfied.

414 million dollars in state contracts awarded to Deloitte Consulting over the last five years. Several former employees of the firm are now in Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration.

6 million dollars raised for charity by students at the annual Penn State dance marathon.

7 straight District 1 AAAA titles for the Chester boys basketball team.

36 straight wins for the Clippers in the District 1 tourney since they lost a semifinal in 2001.

1 pitch thrown this spring by Phils’ closer Brad Lidge. He’s going to undergo more surgery on his shaky knee today.

4 straight wins for the La Salle Explorers, who are making a late run to possibly get into the Big Dance.

5 straight wins for Tiger Woods. They made the movie about the wrong guy. Woods is really “Invincible.”

31 straight years the Flyers have put on their Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival to benefit local charities. It only seems like that long ago when they won their last game. They’ve now dropped 10 straight.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yep, we’re cursed. If you were looking for Brad Lidge this spring, don’t bother. He’ll miss all of training camp with a bum knee. Can you say Danny Tartabull? Why is it this only seems to happen to the Phillies?

I Don’t Get It: How exactly is it that a snowball fight can escalate into a shooting, as happened in Philadelphia yesterday.


Today’s Upper: Now that you’ve heard “Slowly Falling,” which won the Oscar for best song last night, make sure you see the movie, “Once.” It’s just as good.


Quote Box: “We will not be a success if we fail to help transform the community in every way and embrace Chester as Chester embraces us.”

-- Jmaes Nevels, one of the owners who are going to bring an MLS franchise to Chester.

Heartbreak Lidge

I will remind those who may have forgotten that it was our own sports columnist Jack McCaffery who noted that it was not an especially good sign when the closer the Phillies has just acquired in a trade with the Astros showed up for the press conference on crutches.

No problem, was the standard reply from everyone involved. Lidge just had his knee cleaned up a bit. He’ll be ready to roll when the team reports to Clearwater.
Oh, really?

On Saturday Lidge, the Phils’ key off-season acquisition, strode to the mound and unfurled his first pitch of spring training.

And immediately started limping.

One pitch. One. Uno. Single.

Lidge hopped to the locker room. Later the Phils uttered the immortal words we have come to hear every spring.

“We don’t think it’s any big deal. We’re just going to shut him down for awhile.”
Today Lidge will undergo surgery on the very same knee. He likely will miss the entire spring training. And there is no guarantee he will be ready for the opener.

So far the only two stories to emerge this spring have been the team’s dispute with its slugging first baseman, Ryan Howard, one that saw them lose an arbitration hearing, and now Lidge limping to the locker room with a bum knee.

That’s not good karma.

But it is springtime in Clearwater.

Everyone was hoping the Phils can reverse the trend of the past few years when they got off to horrific starts in April and spent much of the summer trying to dig out of their hole.

So far, not much has happened in Clearwater to make you believe things have changed.

Just 'Once' could we get a good show?

No doubt everyone in Hollywood was happy to see the writers’ strike end and Tinseltown put on the glitz again last night for the Academy Awards.

So I have just one question. Why is that people whose lives depend on production values manage every year to come up with such a lame telecast.

Here’s a couple of tips for the Academy.

There are about five categories people actually care about. Those would be best song; best supporting actor and actress; best director; best actor and actress; and best picture.

If my memory serves me correct, the Academy always wisely made the best supporting actor and actress the first awards handed out to set the early pace for the marathon evening.

Not last night. I had been watching the show for an hour and had yet to see a single award I cared about.

Does anybody really give a hoot about documentary, animated feature, costume design or any of the other lesser awards?

Give them out at a luncheon and focus on the lead awards in prime time.

Also, we can live without the seemingly endless montages of great moments from the past, although last night they might have been about the only saving grace for the first hour.

A confession here. I only tuned in last night for one reason. I wanted to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova perform their nominated song, “Falling Slowly,” from “Once.”

My wife actually had to wake me from my stupor once they finally came on. It was worth it. It’s one of those songs that just gets in your head. I’ve been humming it since I saw the movie over the Christmas holiday.

It was left to my wife to rouse me once again when they announced the “Best Song” award. No contest. Hansard was magnanimous in his best Irish brogue in accepting the award.

Then the show did the unthinkable. A production that had time for every “best makeup in an animated short documentary award” cut off Irglova just as she stepped to the mike.

Luckily, someone had enough common sense to bring her back out after a commercial break to offer her heart-felt thanks.

Which is more than I can give to another Razzie-worthy TV broadcast.
Maybe it was the hangover from the strike. But the truth is this show should take about an hour and concentrate on about six awards.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

Sooner we’ll see all the women show up in red dresses. Oh, that also happened last night?

I thought I was just seeing red over the incompetence of the show.

As Alycia Turns

In the category of best performance in a courtroom drama ….

And the Oscar goes to …

Yep, it’s time for an Alycia Lane update.

The former CBS3 anchorwoman will be back in the Big Apple today for a court hearing involving her now infamous scrap with a New York City police officer.

You might remember that it was back on Dec. 16 when the news woman took another trip in the “fast Lane.”

At about 2 a.m. Sunday, she and some folks in a car she was riding in got involved in some kind of a dustup with people in a slow-moving car in front of them.

One of the people in Lane’s vehicle got out and confronted the people in the car. It turns out they were undercover police officers.

Lane got out and started snapping pictures of the situation with her cell phone.

What happened next depends on whom you talk to. Police allege Lane unloaded a sexual slur on a female officer, and also slapped her. Lane denies doing any such thing.
The anchorwoman found herself in the headlines – again – after she was arrested and spent most of the day in the slammer in New York City.

Lane was placed on leave by her station CBS3, and then was fired two weeks later.
She continues to deny the police version of events in the altercation, and has been making legal filings against the station that most believe is the prelude to a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

She might get some more ammo for her case today.

All signs indicate to a deal in which Lane will walk on the charges, so long as she has no other run-ins with the law.

Lane had three and a half years remaining on her $700,000-a-year gig with Channel 3.
Stay tuned for the latest chapter of “As Alycia Turns.” Me? I’ll settle for my boring life any day. But those who were so quick to throw Lane under the boss might want to take a new look at the case, depending on what happens in the courtroom today.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 22

The Daily Numbers: 100 drug counts filed against F. Bruce Covington, the so-called “mystery man” linked to a Thornbury murder case. He’s now the target of a new probe tied to sex and drugs.

40 daring Wawa capers in which police believe the perps hacked their way into the stores by cutting a hole in the roof. At least one of the places hit was in Nether Providence. Two suspects are under arrest.

5 more charges filed by Newtown police against a 199-year-old man they believe ran a kiddie theft ring that specialized in ripping off stuff from unlocked cars. They say the teen ran the ring along with his 39-year-old new bride.

7 of 9 fraud charges against T. Milton Street that a federal jury in Philadelphia says they are deadlocked on. A judge has ordered them to continue deliberating.

5 murders in a span of 9 hours on the streets of Philadelphia on Thursday.

1 person charged in connection with a series of graffiti attacks against churches in Bucks County.

26, age of Army 1st Lt. Nathan Raudenbush, of Earl Township, Berks County. He was killed in Iraq.

3, age of boy in York, Pa., who has died of bacterial meningitis.

3 million bucks paid for a record collection of a guy in Pittsburgh. The haul contains more than 3 million albums, singles and CDs.

16 million more bucks US Airways says it is spending on fuel because of a penny per gallon price hike. They are expecting to post a loss in the first quarter.

3 cent spike in gas prices in the Philadelphia region. The average price now stands at $3.08.

3.68 a gallon for diesel fuel prices. That’s a record high.

20 point lead Hillary Clinton had over Barack Obama in Pennsylvania back in January. That now has shrunk to 12 points, according to a new Franklin and Marshall poll.

46 percent of Pennsylvania for Clinton and 46 percent for McCain in a presidential match.

44 percent for McCain, 43 percent for Obama in the same contest.

35 percent of those polls picked the economy as the top issue.

17 percent selected the war in Iraq. That’s down from 26 percent in January.

28 of February, next Thursday, when some people believe Major League Soccer will announce they are awarding its 16th franchise to Chester. The league is not confirming that.

10 million reasons to smile for Ryan Howard after he won his arbitration battle with the Phillies.

7 straight District 1 titles being sought tonight by the Chester Clippers boys basketball team, weather permitting.

3 championship games set for tonight at Villanova. Should they fall victim to the weather, the PIAA will face some nightmarish scheduling problems.

9 straight losses for the Flyers, who fell last night to the Sharks, 3-1.

111,000 bucks, what an accounting firm says it is owed by former Phillie Lenny Dykstra. Maybe he should ask Ryan Howard for a loan.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yes, it is mornings like this that make you yearn for the sounds of balls slapping into warm, soft leather. Can spring be far behind?

I Don’t Get It: It looks like the mystery is going to linger for another week. Every indication is that Chester will be awarded the next MLS franchise, but nobody wants to say it on the record.


Today’s Upper: That notwithstanding, it does not appear as if anything has changed. Chester is going to be a major league town.


Quote Box: “The facts of this new case in Narberth are virtually identical to the facts alleged in the case against William Smithson and identical to the allegations made by William Smithson against F. Bruce Covington.”

-- G. Guy Smith, attorney for Smithson, is seeking to have a gag order in his case dismissed so he can talk to Covington.

The bizarre case of F. Bruce Covington

Back in September 2006, a 23-year-old intern turned up dead in a home in Thornbury. The body of Jason Shephard was found wrapped in a sheet in the basement. He had been drugged and strangled.

The owner of the home, William Smithson, was charged with first-degree murder. Police believe he strangled Shephard, who had arrived here from North Dakota on business just a few days earlier, after the intern rejected his sexual advances.

(Full disclosure here: I know Smithson. He used to work here at the newspaper.)

But Smithson and Shephard were not alone in the home that night. Court documents indicate F. Bruce Covington, a former administrator at Saint Joseph’s University, also was in the house. Smithson’s lawyer sought immunity for Covington so he could testify on his client’s behalf.

The defense alleges Covington is the person who injected drugs into Smithson and also supplied GHB to both the defendant and the victim. GHB is known as the date-rape drug. Covington says he was asleep and did not hear anything.

Covington has not been charged in connection with the Shephard murder.

Last week, police in Narberth started investigating a claim of sexual assault by a 27-year-old man. Their investigation led them to Covington’s apartment.

The 57-year-old Covington now faces a long list of drug charges because of what police found inside, including suspected crystal methamphetamine, marijuana and crack cocaine. They also found suspected GHB.

Covington faces more than 100 drug charges.

He has not been charged with any sex offenses in connection with the man’s claims of assault.

The 27-year-old has been hospitalized “because of the severe trauma of his rape,” according to a police affidavit.

The circumstances are eerily similar to what police believe happened on the night Shephard died. In this latest instance, the victim told police he was drugged and assaulted. He says he is now “terrified of these males” and named a “Bruce” in particular.

Here’s my question and what I’ve been thinking about since we first uncovered this case last weekend. What else happened in those 18 months?

On Thursday Smithson’s lawyer filed a new motion in Delaware County Court seeking to have a gag order in the case lifted so he can talk to Covington about what happened on that deadly night in Thornbury.

It seems we still have much to learn about the bizarre case of F. Bruce Covington.

Another opening in Penn-Delco

The good folks of Brookhaven are not happy. And with good reason.

The revolving door that is the Penn-Delco School Board recently swung open, creating still another vacancy on the troubled board.

So hopes rose that maybe the borough could get some representation on the board. Think again.

The Penn-Delco School District is made up of Brookhaven, Parkside and Aston Township.
But not its school board. All nine members of the board hail from Aston.
If that strikes you as now quite right, you have company with the folks in Brookhaven.

They’re not a little bit happy about it, and are considering taking legal action. They’ve hired an attorney to figure out what they can do about it.
I think this is called “taxation without representation.”

Brookhaven Councilman Dan McCray said he was “furious” when he learned of the appointment of Aston resident Brian Walker. This doesn’t seem to be anything against Walker, who is a lifelong Aston resident and Sun Valley grad, as much as a plea for some representation for the district’s “stepchildren,” Brookhaven and Parkside.

Luckily for residents in those two towns, this is Penn-Delco. So it wasn’t long before the swinging door to the board swung open again. Embattled board President Dave Seitz is headed for the exit, citing increasing personal and business commitments.

That makes 12 members of the board who have bailed in the last 18 months.
We’ll see who fills the latest open seat, and where that person resides. Early betting is making Aston the heavy favorite.

A 'northern and western suburbs' kind of day

My winter is now complete. I just saw a TV news person stick a ruler in the snow.
Yes, it took longer than normal, but winter has arrived this morning. There is measurable snow. Enough to stick a ruler into.

You can almost hear the glee in the voices of the folks on TV and radio.

It’s going to be a “northern and western suburbs” kind of day. Wherever those imaginary places are. They’re calling for 1-3 inches of snow in the immediate suburbs. But 3-6 inches in the “northern and wester suburbs.” One forrecast this morning went so far as to couch it as the “far northern and western suburbs.” What? Like the Catskills?

In short, it’s going to be a mess out there. In other words, winter.
On days like this, I leave the house extra early. I’d rather have the roads to myself than deal with the deadly combination of nasty weather, rush-hour traffic and clueless drivers.

I was safely ensconced in my warm office just before 6 a.m. It took a little longer than normal to drive in. Most of the roads were snow-covered. But they were eminently passable.

They say this is supposed to change over to sleet, rain and freezing later this morning and this afternoon. Then we can repeat the white-knuckle drive to get home and start the weekend.

Unless, of course, you’re a teacher or student. Then your weekend has already started. Most schools are closed today.

Newspapers don’t close. Worse, the snow is actually news, we have to cover it. So the challenge is first to get the staff into the office, then to cover the story.

We are already posting material on school closings and traffic conditions on our Web site. It’s one of the best things about the Internet. We now have the capability of posting news immediately and updating it constantly, as opposed to the single print edition we publish each day.

I’m tempted to have one of our photographers shoot video of me sticking a ruler in the snow here in beautiful downtown Primos. Somehow, I think I’ll pass.

I am not smiling as I type this. I get no joy out of winter. That thrill exited years ago. In short, I hate winter. And I don’t suffer easily those who take some kind of silly glee out of sticking a ruler in the snow.

Next thing I know you’re going to be telling me it’s sunny and 70 in Clearwater.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chester: Major League town

Chester is going to be a Major League town. Again.

I repeat. Chester is going to be a Major League town.

Roll that one around on your tongue for awhile. Chester. Major League.

It’s been awhile since the downtrodden city hard on the Delaware River has been able to make that claim.

That is about to end.

Maybe as soon as 2010, sports sections all across the nation, and indeed the globe, will carry a new dateline.

Chester, Pa.

That’s because the 16th franchise of Major League Soccer is going to play its games in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

That’s right. Beckham and Posh are coming to Chester.

What has been widely assumed is likely to be cemented next week. Major League Soccer officials will travel to the city of Chester to announce they have awarded their latest expansion franchise to a group of investors that is planning to build a stadium just south of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

The months-in-the-making project became pretty much a lock two weeks ago when the state approved a move to kick in $47 million toward the $115 million stadium project. Delaware County already was on board. They’re putting up $30 million, in exchange for owning the land and the stadium, which they will run through a sports authority.

On Thursday, the final piece of the puzzle was put in place when the Delaware River Port Authority board approved $10 million in funding, which is actually part of the $47 million state package announced by Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Dominic Pileggi at a press conference at the nearby Wharf at Rivertown, next door to the proposed stadium site.

It is hard to explain the impact of this proposal. The city is not just getting an 18,500-seat stadium. And a Major League Soccer franchise.

The stadium is part of a $500 million development along the Chester waterfront that will include an expo center, retail outlets, shops, restaurants and residences.

Word is that all the parties involved likely will once again make their way to the city for the official announcement next week. It has long been believed that an announcent was a matter of when, not if. This morning a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer says it looks like Thursday, Feb. 28.

I suppose it would be selfish of me at this point to delay the announcement one day.
They could do it on Feb. 29, Leap Day. That would seem appropriate.

It will be a giant leap forward for Chester and Delaware County.

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 21

The Daily Numbers: 115 million dollars, the value of the stadium to built in Chester. Also the number of smiles on the faces of officials when they announce next week that Major League Soccer has awarded the city its 16th franchise.

28 as in Feb. 28. Next Thursday. That’s when it appears Major League Soccer will make its formal announcement.

10 million dollars kicked into the stadium project yesterday by the Delaware River Port Authority.

1 less satellite floating around in space after the U.S. Navy nailed a disabled spy satellite with a single missile.

19 die-hard fans who spent much of the night standing outside Citizens Bank Park for the chance to get first crack at single-game Phillies tickets that went on sale this morning.

68 children who will be able to take advantage of the expanded newe home of the Widener University Child Development Center. Previously enrollment topped out at 38.

105,000 dollar fine for the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City for allowing an underage gambler to spend about a month at the gaming tables.

5 homicides recorded in the city of Philadelphia in the last 24 hours. The new police chief has his work cut out for him.

2 DUI charges in a span of 4 hours for a man in Lackawanna County.

2 suspects busted in a series of rooftop burglaries. Many of the heists targeted Wawas in Delaware County where the suspects used a saw to cut a hole in the roof and gain access to the store.

9 as in March 9. That will be the date of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia. Officials have moved the fete up by a week so as not to coincide with Palm Sunday and the start of Easter Week activities.

930 jobs being slashed by GMAC in its auto finance division.

2 national retailers that have filed for bankruptcy. Sharper Image Corp. and Lillian Vernon have gone belly-up.

5,770 retail stores that one expert predicts will close their doors in 2008, the largest number since 2004.

6 out of 10, where US Airways ranks in the number of full-time employees among the nation’s largest airlines.

10 youths who are believed to have ganged up on a 13-year-old at a North Philadelphia stop on the Broad Street subway line. It’s the latest in a string of such attacks.

44 percent of Pennsylvanians still backing Hillary Clinton, to 32 percent for Barack Obama, according to the latest Daily News/Franklin & Marshall poll.

10 straight wins for Barack Obama, who has Clinton on the ropes. He also took Hawaii on Tuesday.

40 point win for the Sixers, who simply blew away the New York Knicks last night, 124-84.

1 year extension given to Sixers coach Mo Cheeks yesterday. If they respond this way, they ought to give him an extension every day.

2 point loss for the boys from Bonner as they fell to Archbishop Ryan last night, 44-42.

44 points for the Ridley boys last night. Not enough. They fell to Downingtown West, 51-44, in PIAA AAA action.

56 points for Delco Christian, which also fell in the District 1 Class A semifinals, 75-56, to Faith Christian.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
When is the last time anyone made you this offer: You’re either going to make $7 million or $10 million this year. How can Ryan Howard lose?

I Don’t Get It: The Chester Upland School District continues to struggle financially. And the district continues to be mired in political struggles. Anyone see a connection here?


Today’s Upper: But there is good news from Chester this morning. Actually outstanding news. Yep, they will be home to the latest Major League Soccer franchise.


Quote Box: “It’s a human system. People make mistakes. The goal is to minimize the chance for those mistakes.”

-- Dan Chapman, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, on the new flight patterns in place at Philadelphia International Airport.

Snow job

While the military scored a direct hit, make it another swing and a miss for Ol’ Man Winter.

We got a dusting of snow yesterday. Certainly not worth all the bluster the forecasters put into it.

Fear not. They’re going to get another shot at it, and this one sounds a bit more serious.

The forecast for the overnight into Friday and much of the day tomorrow sounds like a mess.

Here’s what they’re saying. It’s going to start snowing around 2 a.m. We actually are supposed to see some accumulating snow from this storm. At this point I’ll believe it when I see it.

The morning rush could be more like a morning mush.

Then the second half of this weather double-header is due to arrive in the afternoon.
Snow will taper off by late morning, but then a mix of snow, rain and ice are supposed to hit in mid-afternoon and continue into Friday night. So if you struggle to make it into the office Friday morning, you’ll be happy to know the ride home might not be a whole lot better.

And this final word. It is supposed to be in the 70s Friday as the Phillies practice in Clearwater.

That’s a little different than the 19 degrees that many hearty fans stood out in early this morning outside Citizens Bank Park for the right to buy single-season tickets.

Yep, spring can’t be far off.

Mission accomplished

Cue the “Star Wars” music. This one is right out of the movies.

They didn’t need Bruce Willis, but the U.S. Navy says they have blasted a disabled spy satellite out of the sky. Click here to read all about it.

I realize the government’s concern about the supposed toxic fuel that was on board this rocket and the danger it posed should it crash to earth.

But to be honest, I only think of one thing when I look at this story.

Missile Defense. Yep, that program that everyone mocked when it was first raised by Ronald Reagan.

I have no idea if this incident even translates to the so-called “Star Wars” defense program.

But it’s nice to know we have that capability if we need it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 20

The Daily Numbers: 0.5 percent of Chester’s earned income tax of 2.35 percent that the Chester Upland School District Empowerment Board wants to get its hands on. So far the elected school board, city and county officials are opposing the move.

200 dollars worth of stuff shoplifted from a Springfield supermarket. Police say a woman used her 11-year-old daughter to retrieve plastic bags to stash the loot.

2, as in a mother and daughter, 36 and 19 respectively, who have been arrested after allegedly going on a shoplifting spree at a Kohl’s store in Wilmington.

3,600 dollars a year, what Ridley Park says it can save by going to bi-weekly paychecks. The borough’s cops don’t like the proposal.

33 students in Penn-Delco who are having their residency questioned by the school board.

12 members of the Penn-Delco School Board to resign in the last 18 months. Board President Dave Seitz is the latest to step down.

2 Philadelphia police officers sent to hospital after their cruiser collided with another car in North Philly.

3 houses of worship that have now been the targets of vandals in Bucks County. The churches are just a few miles apart. Police are investigating the possibility that the graffiti and threats are the work of a demonic cult.

3 teens in the last couple of weeks who have now been attacked by a gang of thugs on the Broad Street subway line.

13, age of student charged with stabbing four of his classmates at Antietam Middle-Senior High in Reading, Pa. He says he was being bullied by fellow eighth-graders.

4,000 dollars worth of goods that a school board member in Bloomsburg, Pa., served time for stealing more than two decades ago. He’s upset that his foes are now bringing it up again.

100 dollars a barrel, the threshold oil prices soared over yesterday, in part due to a fire at a refinery in Texas.

2 cent spurt in the price of gas overnight. The region’s average price for unleaded regular is now $3.04. Statewide the price went up 2 cents as well, to $3.07. Need to fill up? Drive over to Jersey. Average price there is $2.82.

5,000 more cases of cancer reported in 2005. That reverses a two-year trend in which the number of cases declined.

9 straight wins for Barack Obama, who put Wisconsin in the win column last night.

8 straight losses now for the Flyers, who fell in Ottawa last night in a shootout.

22 point win for Chester High last night as they overwhelmed Penn Wood, 74-52, to advance to the PIAA District 1 final.

2 wins by the O’Hara and Carroll girls, setting up another showdown for the Catholic League Southern Division crown.

3 million bucks, what separates Ryan Howard and the Phillies as they head for arbitration today.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So who do you think will win again first, Hillary Clinton or the Flyers?

I Don’t Get It: State police and the Gaming Control Board are pointing the fingers at each other over just how a guy who just got indicted managed to be awarded a license for one of the state’s prized slots parlors.


Today’s Upper: Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, lost another round in court, being denied a hearing for his claims that some witnesses at his trial perjured himself.


Quote Box: “We are not against being fiscally responsible … but it will cost money the way you are doing it.”

-- Ridley Park Police Capt. Mark Bascelli, on council’s plan to issue paychecks every two weeks.

The toughest jobs in Delco

I had a meeting yesterday with two men who just might have the toughest jobs in Delaware County.

Meet Gregory Thornton and Marc Wooley.

Dr. Thornton is the superintendent of the Chester Upland School District. Wooley is the head of the state Empowerment Board that actually runs the perenially troubled district.

To give you an idea of what they’re up against, Thornton arrived here to succeed Dr. Gloria Grantham. He didn’t have to come far. Thornton was previously the chief academic officer of the equally troubled Philadelphia School District.

Chester Upland has about 4,000 students in seven schools. Those numbers are dwarfed by the situation in the Philadelphia School District, which has hundreds of schools and a staggering amount of students. Many of those schools and students face problems every bit as serious or even more so than the situation in Chester.

Thornton arrived in Chester, took one look around, and shook his head. He says it’s easily the biggest challenge he’s faced in his career.

How bad were things? Thornton says that at one point last year a decision actually was made not to teach math in the district schools, instead to focus on literacy. You can’t make this kind of stuff up.

There are a lot of good things going on in the city of Chester. The city is experiencing something of a turnaround. But it will all be for naught if those gains are not shared by the school district.

That is where Thornton and Wooley come in.

Wooley came into power when the state Department of Education, in a fairly controversial move, decided that the former Board of Control, which was tasked with putting the ailing district on the path to fiscal sanity, has accomplished its mission.

They promptly blew up that board and set up the Empowerment Board, installing Wooley as its leader.

There are those who say that nothing happens in the Chester Upland School District that is not rooted in politics. For decades the school system was the favored patronage mill of the Republican Party.

That’s true. The Board of Control was tied to the former Republican state administration. The Empowerment Board is tied to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.
Wooley and Thornton have set out to change the way things are done in Chester Upland. Again. Specifially, they want to change the perception of the district, and to get results.

They face some daunting odds.

First, and maybe foremost, there is the continuing exodus of students to charter schools. Right now $31 million of their annual budget goes to the local charters. That’s a big chunk of change.

Now they’re about to butt heads with both city and county leaders over an earned income tax.

They want to get their hands on what they believe is the school district’s fair share of the levy exacted by the city.

But the elected school board, yes there still is one, voted 9-1 to reject their request. The Empowerment Board says it plans to go ahead and ask voters whether they will back transferring a portion, actually 0.5 percent, of the city’s 2.35 percent earned income tax to the school district.

Whether or not they have the power to do that could wind up in court.
Where everything with this district seems to end up.

Thornton and Wooley are bound and determined to make changes in the district. They point to the recent new contract for the district’s teachers as proof they aim to change the way things are done in Chester Upland.

They have opposed, or at least questioned, a proposal for a movie studio in Chester Township because the developer wants the district to forego tax revenues, which would be used to build the facility.

Wooley makes it clear. He inspects these things carefully, and wants to know about every contract, and every dollar, and who is getting what, and making sure the school district gets its fair share.

They talk plainly about how far behind the district is, and their desire to invest in kids.

Too often, too much is made of the dollars and cents, and the kids are forgotten.
Thornton and Wooley want to do both. They want to be fiscally prudent while moving the district and its families ahead. Or at least bring them up to the levels of other districts in the county.

Makes sense to me. Cents, too.

Ryan's (and the fans') Hope

The Phillies should hope they lose this afternoon.

No, they aren’t actually playing a game. Exhibition season doesn’t start for another week or so.

This is much more important than that. This is about money.
Specifically, show me the money.

That’s what Ryan Howard wants the Phillies to do.

The team and their star slugger will sit down today across the table from each other at an arbitration hearing and try to convince the guy in charge why their salary figure is correct.

Click here for our beat writer Ryan Lawrence’s take on it.

The Phillies are offering Howard $7 million. He wants $10 million. So far this spring teams have won every arbitration hearing. The players are taking an 0-fer.
The Phillies should hope that streak stops this afternoon.

Howard is the face of the franchise. He puts people in the seats. Let me ask you this. Do you ever get up to hit the fridge, or the bathroom, when Howard is up? Of course not. You never know when he’s going to hit one of those moon shots into Ashburn Alley.

Why the Phillies would want to sit down across from him at a table and argue why he isn’t worth the money’s he’s asking for is beyond me.

Hey, it’s not my money. It is my team, however. I have big hopes for this year. And I want a happy Howard leading that charge.

So, just for this once, let’s hope the Phillies lose today.

The Storm Watch

We’re on the storm watch. Which means it’s time to storm the supermarkets.

After all, you wouldn’t want to get caught without eggs or milk when we’re expecting a dusting of snow. You never know when you’re going to get out of the house again.

While you’re at the store, maybe you should pick up some earmuffs. That way you can drown out the never-ending storm warnings we will be buried in.

If you really want a taste of what to expect, Click here for the kind of thing to expect this afternoon.

Oh, and by the way, we’re expecting another storm on Friday. This one they’re saying might actually bring accumulating snow. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 19

The Daily Numbers: 50 supporters of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama who gathered for a rally in Chester last night.

94 delegates at stake as Democratic voters in Wisconsin go to the polls today.

138 delegate lead in the Democratic race right now for Sen. Barack Obama.

400 superdelegates that are also up for grabs. They are not bound by their states’ popular votes. Among them is U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, who has said he is backing Hillary Clinton.

500,000 dollar bail for a man facing drug charges in Narberth, Montco. F. Bruce Covington also is alleged to have been in the house of a Thornbury man where a visiting intern from North Dakota was found murdered.

50 years in power that come to an end with word that Cuban strongman Fidel Castro has resigned as president.

81, Castro’s age. He’ll be replaced by his brother Raul, who is 76.

400,000 properties in Philadelphia that have been reassessed, most going up. They are the basis for a lawsuit filed against the Board of Revision of Taxes.

24,000 dollar grant that will be used by authorities in Montgomery County to teach parents and kids about the growing dangers that lurk on the Internet.

2 puppies stolen from a house in Townsend, Del. The 8-week-old Golden Retriever puppies are valued at $750 a piece.

1 cent more per gallon, what we’re paying for gasoline as prices start to trend upward again. Average price of gallon of unleaded regular now stands at $3.01. Statewide prices rose 4 cents over the weekend, to an average high of $3.05.

500 people that could be employed at regional helicopter maker AgustaWestland by the end of the year as production is ramped up.

3 years to the day that Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone left a nightclub on South Street in Philadelphia. They have not been seen since.

3,000 bucks, what some people are losing in a scam going across the state in which people are duped into being “mystery shoppers.”

9 where Pennsylvania ranks in terms of the most-stressed cities. That’s out of the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S.

40 percent of Americans who say they are frequently subjected to stress.

20 million bucks a year, what Sen. Arlen Specter says it costs us to keep illegal aliens locked up in our jails.

415,000 dollars believed ripped off from a Catholic school in South Jersey by its former principal. He says he was driven to it by abuse he suffered at the hands of Catholic priests.

0 chance of Peter Forsberg playing for the Flyers this year. The Swedish superstar indicated yesterday his foot has not recovered enough for him to return to the NHL.

9 goals for the Penncrest ice hockey team as they overwhelmed Lower Merion, 9-0.

1 point difference as La Salle edged Saint Joe’s last night in a classic Big 5 thriller at the Palestra.

26 points for Chester High grad Darrin Govens in the loss for the Hawks.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Get your microphones ready. Jimmy Rollins arrives in Phillies camp today and no doubt will be asked for his reaction to the boast by New York Mets’ slugger Carlos Beltran that, reversing Rollins’ claim last year, the Mets are the team to beat this year.

I Don’t Get It: A church in Bucks County canceled all social activities after it was hit by graffiti and a mailed threat. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Brace yourself. We could very well be the focus of the political world in the weeks leading up to the Pennsylvania Primary. Don’t you just love it?


Quote Box: “I was surprised there was no input from the entire committee before it went out.”

-- Mary Ellen Balchunis, vice chair of the Delco Democratic Party, on the move by several party leaders to support Sen. Barack Obama.

A historic 'race' in Pa.

Voters in Pennsylvania will not cast ballots in the presidential primary for another two months.

Some Delaware County Democrats just couldn’t wait that long.

A faction led by county Democratic boss Cliff Wilson jumped on the “Obama Express” yesterday, throwing their support behind the Illinois senator and his message of change.

It’s not unanimous. Some in the party leadership, including U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, and party Vice-Chair Mary Ellen Balchunis-Harris, are backing Hillary Clinton.
The Obama backers threw a little shindig in Chester last night to celebrate. They gathered at the Willie Mae Leake Community Center.

And they had a message for the pollsters who have Clinton holding a substantial lead: Don’t bet the house on it.

They also had a message for those who see only one thing when they look at Obama, the color of his skin.

Whatever Democrats do in this race, they are going to make history, nominating either the first woman or first African-American to lead their ticket.

It is something people have a tough time getting past. That would include our governor, Ed Rendell.

Rendell is backing Clinton. But he raised more than a few eyebrows last week when he intimated that some white Pennsylvanians simply will not vote for Obama because he is black.

Likewise he said there are those who will not vote for Hillary because she is a woman.

He was, of course, correct. On both counts. That didn’t mean it needed to be said, or to be placed in the spotlight.

That’s the problem. There are some people who aren’t going to see anything else when they look at Obama. Or Clinton, for that matter.

But that’s one of the things I liked most about last night’s rally in Chester. It covered all the bases: black, white, young, old, male and female.

It was left to one of the hosts of the evening, state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester, to put into words what was on most people’s minds.

“A lot of people try to make this about race,” Kirkland told the crowd. “Let me tell you this is not about race. This is about a race to the White House.”

I hope he’s right. My fear is that he’s not.

My hope is that people would not base their vote on a candidate’s gender, or their race. My fear is that we’re not.

That’s why I’m looking forward to the next two months and the buildup to the Pennsylvania Primary.

I’m looking forward to a thorough airing of the issues. I’m looking forward to a serious discussion of whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is the best candidate to face a third senator, the presumed GOP standard-bearer John McCain, for the White House.

I am hoping Pennsylvania can move beyond the joke that sticks to it: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.

I am looking forward to a historic race in Pennsylvania. And it has nothing to do with the fact that one candidate’s a woman. It also has nothing to do with the color of anyone's skin.

We have two months to prove everyone who believes otherwise wrong.

The meaning of a Good Samaritan

We are constantly reminded of the need to “do the right thing,” to get involved, to not simply walk away when confronted with an opportunity to get involved.

Very simply, we would all like to do good. Too often we do little other than talk about it. Too often we fail miserably when it comes time to put those words into action.

Not Joseph Kelly Sr. It surprised no one who knew him that the Levittown man stopped as he traveled on the Vine Street Expressway early yesterday morning when he encountered a man in a wheelchair.

How many of us in the same situation would simply have driven right by, in a hurry to get home after another tough day at work. Not Kelly. He encountered the man, who he did not know, on his way home from his job transporting maritime workers from incoming ships to either their homes or sometimes the hospital.

Kelly was simply doing what he always did, making a kind gesture regardless of whether he knew the person involved.

It cost him his life.

Police say Kelly was eastbound on the Vine Expressway around 2 a.m. when he encountered Jeffrey Williams rolling his wheelchair westbound in the same lane. He stopped his truck, got out and offered to give Williams a hand.

Both Kelly and Williams were struck and killed by a truck that came up on the two of them, attempted to swerve around them, but fatally struck them both.

Kelly was to become a grandfather in September.

A lot of us talk about doing the right thing. Joseph Kelly Sr. is one of the few who tried to live it every day.

Yesterday it cost him his life on the Vine Street Expressway.

The world could use a lot more people like him.

Monday, February 18, 2008

This week's print column ... If you build it

Here's a version of this week's print column.

If you build it, and if you’re granted a franchise, what will you call the team?

Andd does all the hoopla surrounding the building of a stadium in the struggling city of Chester make economic sense?

Actually, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

Right now there is no team. Hence, there is no stadium. At least not yet.
But organizers are expecting that to change any time. They expect Major League Soccer will in fact grant its 16th expansion franchise to the city of Chester.
Yep, the city that once boasted, “What Chester Makes, Makes Chester,” is about to “make” a little history. They will become the first major league sport in the region to actually play its games outside the city limits.

Yes, Harold Katz once threatened to pick up the Sixers and jump across the Delaware River to Camden. Instead the Wachovia Center was built, and the Sixers have been playing mostly lousy basketball there ever since.

Of course, when Ed Snider decided to build a new playpen for Eric Lindros and the Flyers, along with the Sixers, he didn’t go hat-in-hand to his pals in City Hall or Harrisburg. He reached into his own wallet, lined up the financing and built what would be the CoreStates Center, which would become the First Union Center, and now, the Wachovia Center. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was given the land where the crumbling JFK Stadium sat.

But it was the last time one of these shrines to our professional athletes was built without a sizable infusion of public funds. Jeff Lurie got a ton of public money when he constructed Lincoln Financial Field. So did the group that owns the Phillies when they envisioned Citizens Bank Park.

Now a group headed by New York financier Jay Sugarman, along with Swarthmore businessman James Nevels, and the Buccini/Pollin Group are looking to plop a stadium down along the waterfront in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge. And yes, they have their hand out. They have sought — and are getting — a big chunk of public funds. Delaware County is on board, putting up $30 million of the $115 million price tag. In exchange, it will own the land and run the stadium through a still-to-be-enacted sports authority.

The state, after no small amount of haggling, also got on board. Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Dominic Pileggi came to the waterfront amid much fanfare a couple of weeks ago bearing gifts, in the form of $47 million in state funds.

It should be noted that, this newspaper not withstanding, news of all this public money being used to build a stadium and lure a Major League Soccer franchise to Chester is not being greeted without a few calls of “foul.”

Very simply, not everyone believes this is a good idea. It is not an unreasonable argument. Even when you consider that the stadium is simply one part of a $500 million development, including retail outlets, bars and restaurants, offices, apartments and townhouses envisioned by the developers, not everyone is sold on this being an economic juggernaut. Or even something that will provide momentum to what appears to be an economic turnaround in the city.

One of those would be Rick Eckstein. He’s a Villanova University professor who maintains that in most instances, stadium projects simply don’t deliver the economic benefits that were promised when government agencies reached into the public till and forked over the funds to build them.

On the other hand would be Pileggi and Nick Sakiewicz. Pileggi sees the stadium project as more evidence of the city’s turnaround. As the former mayor, he knows something about where the city has been, and more importantly where it’s going.
Sakiewicz points out that in job creation alone, the project would be welcome news in an area that still struggles economically.

In the meantime, all of this is a bit premature. That’s because, before we build the stadium, and the massive project along the river, it would be nice if we had a team.
There’s still no word from Major League Soccer. Most people believe we are merely talking about when, not if, an announcement is made.

There is, however, this from the Sons of Ben. That is the group of soccer fanatics who have been pushing for more than a year to draw an MLS franchise to the Philadelphia area.

Last week, I recounted how I half in jest suggested that the team (if it becomes reality) honor its home town and several of the industrial icons that put the muscle in that “What Chester Makes” label by calling it the Chester Sun.

That didn’t fly too well with the region’s soccer fans.

So I’ll give it another try. Why not play off one of the world’s most famous soccer outfits? Yes, the local team could be called Chester United. Eat your heart out, Manchester. Actually, the idea of something unifying the city and region is not a bad idea.

No, I don’t expect it to happen. Yes, I realize that even though the team’s games will be played in Chester, the team undoubtedly will have Philadelphia in its moniker.

I got more than 100 responses to my call for suggestions.

The overwhelming favorite is some version of Philadelphia Athletic, or Philadelphia Independence, or Philadelphia Athletic FC. I’ve learned that FC is big with these soccer types. That’s right. They call it football.

So, if you build it, will they come? Not sure yet. But they certainly will argue about the merits of whether they should be doing it in the first place. And what to call the team should they go ahead and build it anyhow.

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

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 18

The Daily Numbers: 27 homes in Tinicum that have been soundproofed after years of complaints about noise from nearby Philadelphia International Airport. Officials said 500 homes would be treated, but the program has lagged.

10,000 dollar reward being offered for information that leads to an arrest in the murder of Altimese Roberts, 67, who was found smothered in her Darby Township home back in December.

41 miles, how far a West Chester man walked on Sunday to honor the memory of his nephew, Marine Sgt. James Fordyce, who was killed in the line of duty in February 2006 off the coast of Africa.

40 years of service coming to an end as Haverford Police Chief Gary Hoover hangs up his badge. Hoover is retiring.

12,000 dollars in legal fees spent so far by Upland Borough to fight a proposed halfway house that wants to locate in the borough.

1.5 percent hike in state funding for Wallingford-Swarthmore School District under the Rendell budget. School officials are not happy, saying they are being shortchanged.

2 people killed overnight in an accident on the Vice Street Expressway. Police say a Good Samaritan had stopped to help a man in a wheelchair when they were both struck by an oncoming vehicle

1 Philadelphia Housing Auhtority officer shot Sunday during an altercation in North Philadelhphia.

3 homicides recorded in the city early Saturday, snapping what had been something of a furlough in the skyrocketing murder count.

675,000 dollars, what a man put up for a Delaware state license plate displaying the number 6. Go figure.

219 businesses on a state Department of Revenue list of those who owe the state more than $6.8 million in taxes. Thirteen of those are in Delaware County.
2 members of Philadelphia City Council who are going to court seeking the authority to regulate guns in the city outside the state Legislature.

10 emergency dispatchers in Bucks County who are filing grievances over disciplinary measures against them for delays in handling of a 911 call from a disabled woman who died in a fire.

143 million pounds of beef from a Southern California slaughterhouse that has been recalled by the feds. A lot of it was sold to school lunch programs. The animals are believed to have been abused.

74 delegates up for grabs among Democrats in Wisconsin tomorrow.

2 weeks between Wisconsin and key primaries in Ohio and Texas. Then it’s on to the Pennsylvania Primary on April 22.

7 straight losses for the Flyers as their freefall shows no signs of ending.

3 Flyers who are now facing concussion syndromes. The team lost Denis Topelko on Sunday.

3 weeks before Derian Hatcher’s knee likely will be ready for action.

81 races over two years, that’s how long ago Ryan Newman won his last race. Sunday he took the checkered flag at Daytona.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Mets’ slugger Carlos Beltran has fired the first shot in what should be a summer-long war with the Phillies. He had a message for Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies. He believes the Mets are the team to beat, with the addition of ace Johan Santana. Of course Rollins famously made the same boast last year.

I Don’t Get It: What could be more simple, more successful than the Hershey’s Kiss? Apparently all is not well in chocolate town. Sales are down. The company is going to rethink its marketing and packaging.


Today’s Upper: Yes, it is raining outside. But it will feel like spring. Temperatures will be in the mid-60s before diving again later this afternoon.


Quote Box: “I say, this is why you deserve a decent education. Because people fought for you to have one.”

-- Chester High School teacher Twyla Simpkins, on those who laid much of the groundwork for education of black students and black history.

Delco Dem leaders swing to Obama

In a little more than two months, Pennsylvanians will finally get their say in the presidential race.

For months, the grumbling was that it would be too late, that the Keystone State would be anything but, that both races likely would be decided by then.

That certainly seems the case on the Republican side. The Delco GOP likely will have very little at stake on April 22 as Sen. John McCain appears a lock to be their nominee.

Then there’s the Democrats.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Obama, pushing a message of hope and change, has reeled off eight straight wins, and in the process left the Clinton campaign reeling.

On Tuesday, Hillary will be looking to derail Obama-mania in Wisconsin. If she can do that, then hold onto leads in Texas and Ohio, then we’re looking at six weeks of a full-court press for the Pennsylvania vote.

If she can hold back the Obama tide, it now appears Clinton will have to fend for votes in Delaware County, one of the key suburban counties that have fueled four straight Democratic presidential wins, without the support of the Delco party leaders.

County boss Cliff Wilson and newly elected state Rep. Bryan Lentz have announced they will push the rest of the county Dem leaders to back Obama.

Also in the Obama camp are First Chair Tony Campisi, Democratic leader in Marple Newtown, who will serve as county regional campaign leader for Obama, Vice Chair Don Mix, leader of the Mid-County Democrats, and county party secretary Mike Shaw.
Come November, it’s not just the presidential race that will be on the ballot. The 7th District Congressional seat also will be up for grabs again.

Which will provide an interesting dilemma for first-term Congressman Joe Sestak, D-7. The man who stunned the county GOP two years ago by dethroning longtime Rep. Curt Weldon, will face W. Craig Williams, a former assistant U.S. attorney, in a race that could be more interesting than first thought.

Now it will be interesting for a whole new reason. As a congressman, Sestak is one of the so-called superdelegates who are not committed to the result of the popular vote.

Sestak has already indicated he’s backing Clinton. He served in her husband Bill’s administration.

That will put him at odds with most of the county party.
If the race remains undecided heading to the convention, things could get even more interesting.

Brace yourself. What was once thought of as an afterthought in the Pennsylvania Primary now looks like it could be a barn-burner.

And Delaware County Democrats could find themselves as a prize catch.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 15

The Daily Numbers: 7 the death toll in the latest campus rampage, this time at Northern Illinois University. That includes the gunman.

160 kids who were crowded into a large lecture hall when the gunman strode in and opened fire.

42,085 people in Delaware County who are registered as Independent. They will not be able to vote in the April 22 Primary unless they change their registration to either Democrat or Republican.

24 of March, deadline for those registered Independent to make that change.

52 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats backing Hillary Clinton, to 36 percent for Barack Obama, according to a new Quinnipiac Universtity poll.

1 lane, all that’s open westbound on the Pa. Turnpike at the Delaware Valley interchange.

3 hours, how long traffic was tied up at I-95 and the Blue Route yesterday afternoon when a truck loaded with peanut butter cookies tipped over, spilling its load all over the highway.

3 straight days a truck has caused major headaches for drivers on the region’s highways.

62 more bucks, what the average taxpayer in Colwyn will have to fork over in a tax hike included in the town’s budget.

7 suspects behind bars after a Valentine’s Day roundup in Philly of men suspected of various violent acts.

3,500 bucks, the value of the sports jacket Milton Street wore in court yesterday for his trial on charges that he did not pay taxes.

50 cents more to park in Philly, under the budget proposal submitted yesterday by Mayor Michael Nutter.

9 local parishes, including St. Louis in Yeadon, where a former priest served. The Rev. David Sicoli was removed from the priesthood by the archdiocese yesterday. He has a history of molesting young boys.

250 pairs of women’s underpants swiped from a Victoria’s Secret store in the Conventry Mall near Pottstown. Soembody had a happy Valentine’s Day.

54 percent hike in profits in the fourth quarter reported by cable giant Comcast.

733,000 dollars paid to restore a covered bridge that was destroyed by arson in Sellersville, Bucks County.

5 straight losses for the Flyers as they continue to reel under a series of injuries, bad play and nonsense surrounding Peter Forsberg.

15 wins against five losses for Cole Hamels, who enters this season as the ace of the Phillies staff.

55 points for Marple Newtown last night, not enough as they fell to Harriton, ending their season.

24, that’s the seeding of Council Rock South, which will face No. 1 seed Chester tonight.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
I guess it’s too much to ask for the Phillies and Ryan Howard to announce a contract agreement today. Howard is due to talk to the media. Don’t expect good news.

I Don’t Get It: Another campus. Another troubled young person, and another gun. Now seven people are dead. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Pennsylvania is the proud owner of a new and improved open records law. It’s about time.


Quote Box: “I’ve been telling anybody that would listen to me for the last while that I don’t think it’s going to be a competitive primary by the time it gets to Pennsylvania.”

-- Villanova University political science professor Dr. James Vike, on the looming importance of the Pa. Primary.

In our view, he's a Giant

I have a new hero.

We all knew that newly minted Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-Bucks, served valiantly in the Iraq war.

For that he gained our respect, and a lot of votes, as he was elected to Congress in the 8th District.

But now he’s done something that no doubt will make him a hero all over again with a lot of people across the Delaware Valley.

In one of those self-serving, meaningless actions that takes up entirely too much of their time, the U.S. House of Representatives took up a resolution this week honoring the New York Giants for their dramatic turnaround at the end of the season and thrilling win over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

As these ceremonial actions usually do, it passed overwhelmingly.

Actually, 412 members of the House weighed in and voted in the affirmative.

Only one voted against.

Enter Rep. Murphy.

He cast the lone dissenting vote.

Murphy, a lifelong die-hard Eagles fan who actually worked a security detail at Veterans Stadium for Iggles games, says he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.
It’s a feeling every Eagles fan can identify with.

Our only question is what was Reps. Brady, Sestak and the others from our area thinking? Apparently two other Congress members voted “present.” Neither was from our area.

A Giant move backward for diplomacy? Maybe.

But Murphy’s a hero in our book. A Giant, you might say.

Go, Eagles. We’ll take care of those “Jints” next year

More madness


How else do you explain what happened – again – on a college campus yesterday afternoon.

This time it was Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Ill. Police say a former student dressed in black waltzed into a large lecture hall and opened fire on a crowded classroom.

Before he turned the gun on himself, five people were killed. A sixth died this morning. Another 16 were wounded.

The classroom, packed with as many as 160 students, turned into mayhem, with students running for cover and stampeding toward the exits.

There are, of course, many things I would like to know about what happened on that campus yesterday.

But I’ll tell you what I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know a thing about the shooter. I don’t want to know his name. I don’t want to know what led him to such a gutless, heinous act, opening fire on a defenseless group of kids.

I don’t want to know his life story, or what kind of difficulties led him to such a monstrous rampage.

I don’t particularly want to know what was on his MySpace page, if he felt alienated, or wasn’t loved as a child.

All I know is I want this kind of carnage to stop. I have a daughter in college, and a son who will do the same next year.

Every time you hear about one of these instances, it’s like a dagger in the heart.
I’ve never been much of a gun guy. Never owned one. Never fired one, unless you count the BB-gun I cherished as a kid.

But there is one thing I am beginning to wonder about. I wonder what would have happened if just one other person, a faculty member or another student, had had a weapon in that classroom yesterday.

I know, I know, that’s not the answer.

I would agree that the answer is fewer guns, not more.

But I’m beginning to wonder.

If that gunman had been taken down and it had saved even one life or kept one student from being wounded, wouldn’t that have been worth it?

Instead, we wait for the next rampage, certain only in the knowledge that it is a matter of when, not if.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 14

The Daily Numbers: 1 as in Day 1 for pitchers and catchers in Clearwater. The Phils are back in business. All is right with the world.

28 degrees outside. We’re headed for a high of 42. It’s expected to be 65 in Clearwater.

4 hours, what it took harried commuter Ryan McCormick to navigate his normal 40-minute drive from New Jersey to his home in Rose Valley during Tuesday night’s ice storm.

3 hours, how long the southbound lanes of the Northeast Extension of the Turnpike were closed after a tractor-trailer tipped over yesterday morning, spilling its contents across the road.

3 people taken into custody in Lower Chichester yesterday morning after police came to a house there while investigating a homicide just over the state line in Claymont.

5 years in jail, mandatory minimum a Collingdale teen is facing after pleading guilty to a shooting that left an Upper Darby honors student paralyzed.

15 workers disciplined at the Bucks County 911 center in connection with delays after a disabled woman called to report her bed was on fire. The woman died in the blaze.

28 seconds, amount of time that passed from time the woman dialed 911 and the time a dispatcher answered her call. She was then put on hold for another 26 seconds before another operator picked up the call.

5 school buses that have been pulled from service in Bucks County, in the same district where a runaway bus struck a student. She eventually lost her leg.

400 union workers on the third shift at GM’s Boxwood Road plant in Wilmington. They will soon be out of work. The auto maker said it would discontinue the shift due to declining sales.

4 billion dollar budget that will be rolled out by new Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter today.

1 dollar, the annual compensation for Comcast founder Ralph Roberts. He’s giving up his salary, bonus and stock grants.

3 to 7 years in jail for former Penn prof Tracy McIntosh for a sexual assault. He’s from Nether Providence.

24 of March, deadline for those registered independent to change to Republican or Democrat, and thus be able to vote in the April 22 Pennsylvania Primary.

1,223 delegates for Democratic front-runner Barack Obama. That’s compared to 1,161 in the Hillary Clinton camp.

219 billion dollar economic plan rolled out yesterday by Obama, who says he wants to spend money to create jobs in construction and environmental industries.

5 straight wins for the Sixers heading into the All-Star break. They beat the Grizzlies last night, 102-88.

4.34 ERA for journeyman right-handed pitcher Kris Benson, who the Phils signed yesterday. His career record is 68-73.

12 straight points to open the game for the Chester Clippers, who rolled over Perkiomen Valley, 87-41, in a PIAA AAAA playoff game.

55 points put up by Glen Mills, which was not enough as they fell to Norristown, 64-55.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Enough about Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee. Tell me more about Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge. The Phils open camp today!

I Don’t Get It: Were you impressed by anybody doing the questioning at the Clemens’ hearing yesterday? What would these people do if they weren’t elected to Congress?


Today’s Upper: Forbes Magazine has named Philadelphia the fifth “Most Miserable” place in the country? And damn proud of it, by the way. What? Were they stuck on the Blue Route Tuesday night?


Quote Box: “We’re trying to get this done as quickly as possible, but again, we want to get it done the right way.”

-- Dan Courtemanche, spokesman for Major League Soccer, on expected announcement of a franchise that will play its games in Chester.

The McIntosh case

Now back to the real world. And another would-be Romeo. That would be former Penn professor Tracy McIntosh, a Nether Providence resident.

For the next three to seven years, McIntosh, once one of the world’s pre-eminent brain trauma researchers, will reside in jail.

He was sentenced Wednesday for the sexual assault of a Penn grad student.

This case has been ugly from the start. But it turned bizarre when McIntosh initially entered into a plea deal that allowed him to avoid jail time, instead doing 11 to 23 months on house arrest, in no small part because of his reputation and his work in the research and treatment of brain injuries.

When that deal became public, an outcry erupted. District Attorney Lynn Abraham appealed. State Superior Court ordered McIntosh to be resentenced.

The next bizarre twist were allegations that the assistant district attorney was aware of the deal, and the no-jail-time sentence, even while passionately arguing in favor of a lengthy prison sentence.

The original judge in the case recused himself because of the controversy.
Yesterday, McIntosh stood in front of Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe. She threw the book at him.

Something else you should know about this case. The victim was not a stranger to McIntosh. The woman’s uncle was an old friend of McIntosh. In fact, he’s godfather to one of his two children.

McIntosh was showing the woman around campus, which led to dinner and a night of drinking. Police allege McIntosh took her back to his campus office, gave her marijuana, then had sex with her. He was initially charged with rape. That eventually was reduced to sexual assault.

In her sentencing, Dembe made reference to McIntosh’s apparent habit of harassing women who worked for him.

For his part, McIntosh accepted responsibility for his “shameful behavior” and the “incalculable pain” he has put the victim through.

But he also sought leniency from the court, saying he was a changed man.

Of course this came after a motion to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial was rejected.

Dembe had some other grim news for McIntosh. She was ordering him jailed immediately. The stunned professor was escorted out of court by sheriff’s deputies.
He will spend Valentine’s Day behind bars.

It won’t stop the questions that have surrounded this case from the start, but it will put a final, declarative exclamation point on it.

Justice delayed. Yes, this case had more twists and turns than a Philly soft pretzel. But in the end it was justice served.

My funny Valentine

A few thoughts on a day we reserve for matters of the heart, from a guy who flunked Romance 101.

Listen up, guys. This is important. Each year my wife and I tell each other we are not giving each other gifts for Valentine’s Day. We always tell each other, “let’s just do cards.”

Perhaps your significant other has intimated something similar to you.
Here’s a bulletin for you. She’s lying. She fully expects you to arrive home tonight bearing gifts, in effect once again baring your heart.

Forget the chocolates, you’re probably going to wind up eating most of them anyhow. She’s on that perpetual diet, remember?

Flowers are nice, but they’re really just the appetizer, not the main course.

Think jewelry. It never fails to zing the heartstrings. And it lasts a lot longer than roses.

There is a new study out that says it really is possible to find love among the cubicles. In other words, in the workplace.

I haven’t seen it, but I know for a fact that it’s true.

It was 30 years ago, at another newspaper, when Cupid managed to do his handiwork.
I was doing what I did about a 1,000 times a day, walking from the newsroom back to the composing room, where at that time the newspaper was actually put together. To get there I had to walk through the advertising department. That’s where I saw her. I was hooked.

She apparently felt the same way. She always says that she knew she was going to marry me the first time she laid eyes on me.

She was right, although I’m sure it took a lot longer than she imagined. We had what I would delicately describe as an extended dating/engagement arrangement.

This summer we will celebrate 25 years of marriage. I’m still amazed that in all that time she hasn’t kicked me to the curb. She’s put up with the insanity of being married to a newspaper. That’s right. She didn’t just marry me. She kind of shares me with the newspaper. It’s been that way for a quarter of a century. Through the years before the kids when, for all intent and purpose, she lived alone. Through all the years of me working the night shift. Through the years of phone calls at all hours of the day and night. Through the years of me phoning the office even on weekends and days off. Through the years of having KYW Newsradio as the soundtrack to your life.

She hasn’t dumped me yet. I am eternally grateful that she has not. Sure, she’s my wife. She’s also my best friend.

So you would think that I believe her when she says “no gifts this year.” Not a chance.

Guys, take my word for it. Don’t go home tonight empty-handed.

I know I won’t. Just as I have for the last 30 years.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 13

The Daily Numbers: 5 o’clock, the witching hour yesterday when what had been fairly benign conditions turned into a nightmare for drivers.

400 trucks that PennDOT had out trying to attack the ice with salt.

28,747 tons of snow that PennDOT had used this winter up until yesterday. That’s out of 73,700 tons stockpiled.

50,000 bucks, or more, what the family of Whiskers the cat wants from the Delco SPCA for mistakenly putting down their family pet. They have filed a lawsuit against the agency.

44,000 square feet of space at the former Franklin Mint building in Middletown that will make way for a new office park under a plan being pushed by developers.

7 days of the annual Welcome America July 4th celebration in Philadelphia that could be pared back to 4 under the current plan. The boss of the celebration, actor Clifton Davis, also has left his position.

3 suspects in a robbery who were injured after a high-speed chase from Philadelphia into Lower Merion.

13, age of student police allege was sexually assaulted by a school custodian in Reading.

7 casinos now up and running in Pennsylvania. The latest being the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course outside Harrisburg.

11 casinos in Atlantic City, all of which are reporting declines in revenue. The culprit? You guessed it. Competition from the new slots parlors in Pa.

2 more days to file nominating petitions to appear on the April primary ballot. Gov. Ed Rendell extended the deadline until Thursday because of weather problems.

12 candidates who filed to seek the state’s only open Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. John Peterson.

74,000 buyouts being offered to workers as it continues to reel under sagging sales. Some are referring to it as “the end of the road” for many GM workers.

1 as in No. 1, that would be Uno, the beagle, named best in show at the Westminster Dog Show.

169 breeds and 2,627 entries to this year’s Super Bowl of dog shows.

24, age of college student at Penn State’s Harrisburg campus charged with making threats that he said would “make the Virginia Tech incident look like a trip to an amusement park.”

3 more wins for Barack Obama yesterday, who swept primaries in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. He now leads Hillary Clinton in the delegate count.

4 straight losses for the reeling Flyers, who fell again to the Islanders last night, 4-3.

12 points for Duane Johnson last night in leading Penn Wood to a big win in the PIAA hoops tourney. They beat Cheltenham, 69-61.

68 career wins for Kris Benson, against 73 losses. He’s close to reaching a deal with the Phillies.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
One more day until pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater. Ahhhhhh!

I Don’t Get It: Roger Clemens is going to appear before Congress today, apparently in some kind of effort to salvage his reputation. Can someone tell me why I should care about this?


Today’s Upper: Every dog has its day, baby. Let’s hear it for Uno, the plucky beagle who last night won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. Our old pal Snoopy must be thumping his chest.


Quote Box: “We waited two years and felt like we gave them a chance to redeem themselves, but we didn’t see the promised change.”

-- Kathryn Giaconia, on decision by Whiskers the cat to file suit against the Delco SPCA.

Confessions of a commuter

I knew I was in trouble before I even left the office.

First, I had to “weather” the incessant warnings from the talking heads on TV about how treacherous the roads were during yesterday’s evening commute. For once, it appeared they were hyperventilating with good reason.

Things on the highways were just a mess. Sometime around four o’clock, when for most of the day it appeared we had dodged another winter weather bullet, all hell broke loose.

Specifically, the temperature dipped just enough to turn all that moisture into sheets of ice.

The Flyers would have had trouble getting home through this stuff.

So it was with no small amount of angst – along with the growing knot in my stomach – that I glumly listened to each update, with the horror stories now being reported on I-95, as well as on both the Platt and Commodore Barry Bridges. Traffic was at a standstill. Cars were skidding everywhere. The roads had turned into skating rinks.

For now, that was not my problem. Getting to my car, and then actually getting into it, was.

I have a general rule that I use to deal with bad-weather driving. Usually, I simply try to wait out much of the afternoon rush-hour mess. The fewer people with no clue how to drive in the snow, the better I find the going.

But my dismay turned to disgust as I exited the office, only to see several co-workers who had left about a half-hour before me still chipping away at the ice that now coated their vehicles. Then I looked at my car-turned-popsicle.

Swell, I muttered.

Things went downhill from there. My scraper broke in two on my first pass against the ice that now coated my windshield. I decided maybe to let the defroster do its work. Eventually, the ice gave way. Now it was time to hit the road. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

However, I do have a few standing rules that I use in these situations.
One, it’s never as bad as they are saying it is on radio and TV. Once again that proved true last night. Was it great? No, especially when you drive a Zamboni with probably not the best tires, as I do. But I managed to progress at a decent clip.

Soon my fears of making it up the hill on Oak Avenue and across Baltimore Pike, where I take a left on Springfield Road, were eased, although I had to fall back on my habit of sitting well back at the red light so as to get a bit of a “running” start.

The next challenge would be the hill from the Springfield Trolley station at Brookside all the way up to Route 1. No problem. I actually exhaled at this point.
The rest of the ride home was pretty much uneventful, except for two observations I make every time we get bad weather.

People, please, it really is not necessary to go 5 mph just because we have a little ice and snow. In fact, you’re going to be a problem. You’re going to get stuck, and so is everyone cursing at the top of their lungs behind you.

Second, out on West Chester Pike, I had another winter-driving theory confirmed. You could see the blue and red lights on the police car from a mile away. Everyone was getting over into the left lane. Great, I thought. Once I got up to the cruiser, there, sitting down in a ditch, was the proud owner of a spiffy four-wheel-drive Jeep. Yes, just because you’re driving an SUV does not mean you are immune to the elements. I am always amazed at how many SUVs – and their seemingly stunned drivers –find themselves in this position.

The ride in today was better, but not much.

The problem is rain, lots of it. Most of the schools are operating on a two-hour delay.

Hey, it could be worse. This could be snow.
Snow, ice, rain, flooding.

The locusts should be arriving any day now.

Numero Uno


Not, this is not the rant of a frustrated Iggles’ fan still ticked that this collection of dogs so under-achieved this year.

This is the new cheer in the dog world.

A beagle won Best in Show at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show.

None of those overly made-up, pampered pooches with the over-the-top names – and handlers – took best in show.

Instead, “Uno” now sits atop the dog kingdom.

Snoopy would be proud.

This is no small accomplishment, despite the size of the critter.

In the 100 years that Westminster, the top dog when it comes to canine competition, has been holding their contest for primping pooches, a beagle had never captured the top prize. This despite the fact that it consistently is ranked among the nation’s most popular breed of dogs.

But every dog has its day.

Today beagles rule. And Uno is leading the way. Guess we can now call him Numero Uno.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 12

The Daily Numbers: 3 primaries today in what is being called the Potomac Primary, in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

1 super delegate in the camp of Sen. Hillary Clinton. That would be Rep. Joe Sestak, who served in her husband’s administration.

188 Democratic delegates up for grabs in the April 22 Pennsylvania Primary. Of those 103 will be determined by voters.

48 percent for Barack Obama vs. 42 percent for John McCain in one national poll of a possible presidential race. The same poll shows Hillary Clinton with a razor-thin 46-45 margin over McCain.

90,000 tons of salt in PennDOT’s arsenal as it awaits today’s weather event. It only seems like most of it is clinging to your car.

3,000 dollars worth of chances that were raffled off last year by Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Morton. The prize? A night of divine dining whipped up by resident gourmet chef, the Rev. Mark Haynes.

2 Delco pals of disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy who now face additional charges for their alleged roles in the scam.

4.5 percent pay hike for teachers in Chester Upland School District under the new contract negotiated this week.

1 person killed in a fire that swept through a home in East Goshen, Chester County, early this morning.

1 body found and two more still missing from an ill-fated hunting trip by three men in Cumberland County, New Jersey.

48,000 dollars in legal fees that the state’s student loan agency, PHEAA, has been ordered to pay as a result of its legal tug of war with several media agencies seeking documents.

25 million cocaine empire headed by rap promoter Alton ‘Ace Capone’ Coles, if you believe federal prosecutors. Coles denies the charges, saying he’s a self-made entrepreneur.

21 days since the body of a man was found in his Middletown home. No arrests have been made in the murder of Arunkuman Ingle.

100,000 letters being sent out by Peco to remind customers who are delinquent in their accounts that they could be eligible for LIHEAP crisis grants.

101, age of man who died in a house fire in Atlantic City.

85 chickens that were turned loose inside Northeast High School in Philly, causing classes to be cancelled yesterday.

1 cent more, what it will soon cost to mail a letter. Yep, the cost of stamps is going up again.

4 straight wins on their home hardwood for the Sixers, who somehow have managed to stay in contention for the final NBA playoff spot.

1 tenth of a second left in last night’s crackling Villanova-Georgetown contest when a crucial foul call went the Hoyas’ way. Georgetown won, 55-53.

6 more PIAA hoops playoff contests on tap tonight for Delco schools.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Two days until pitchers and catchers. So we’re going to have snow, rain and ice here. It’s almost spring.

I Don’t Get It: A strange twist yesterday in the case of the 43-year-old teacher’s aide busted in New Jersey for having sex with a student. Her husband was arrested in court for violating a restraining order obtained by his wife.


Today’s Upper: Pennsylvania is about to enter a new era of open government, with thanks to Sen. Dominic Pileggi. The Senate is likely today to take up the open records law already passed by the House. Pileggi is working toward passage of the piece.


Quote Box: “I endorsed Sen. Clinton very early on last spring because I thought she was the best for this country and my district. I believe she has the experience that gives her the understanding of the process to bring about change.”

-- Rep. Joe Sestak, on his support for Hillary Clinton.

The Keystone of the Democratic race

A funny thing happened on the way to crowning a Democratic candidate for president.

That’s right. Don’t look now but your vote, at one point considered to be about as useful as the local weather forecast, now might mean something.

The common belief was that Pennsylvania’s April 22 presidential primary was too late, that the issue would be decided long before then.

And for the GOP, that might be the case. Arizona Sen. John McCain certainly seems to be well on his way to capturing the nomination, a plucky Mike Huckabee not withstanding.

Not so on the Democratic ledger. A crowded ballot has been winnowed away. John Edwards has pulled the plug on his candidacy.

That leaves Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama in hand-to-hand combat for the Democratic nomination.

Obama had a big weekend, sweeping a series of four primaries and caucuses.
Today all eyes will be on the Chesapeake region, as Clinton and Obama battle for votes in what is being referred to as the Potomac Primary, with contests in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. It looks like the makings of another big day for Obama and his message of “change.” Clinton, who reacted to the weekend setbacks by shuffling her key campaign staff, is holding out for a possible win in Virginia.

But the bottom line is that this contest looks certain to continue. There are very few big-state primaries between now and when Pennsylvanians go to the polls.
The delegate counts are impossibly close. There are those who believe the race could be decided by the so-called super-delegates, those who are not bound by the popular vote in their states.

Among them is Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont. Count him in Clinton’s camp. He made that call last spring, saying he believes she has the experience necessary for the job.

Get ready to hear that image repeated over and over again in the next two months. It will be Clinton’s experience and ability to get the job done vs. Obama’s message of change and a new way of doing things in D.C.

Once considered an after-thought, Pennsylvania could now actually be a deciding voice in the race. And as usual, just as it has been in the past few presidential races, one of the keys will be those voters in the suburban Philadelphia counties.
Which means we likely will be getting more than one visit from both candidates.

Here’s a campaign slogan for the next two months: Obama, Clinton and Pennsylvania: Perfect together.

Northern & western suburbs alert!

Here are the key words you should keep in mind today: Northern and western suburbs.
The over-under on the number of times you hear that phrase stands at 35. I’m taking the over.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re going to get some kind of weather event today. Just what that is remains to be determined.

But the blathering about is already going full force. Most of it surrounds the mysterious “northern and western suburbs.” Just where exactly these are actually located remains something of a geographic puzzle.

I used to think Delaware and Chester counties were the western suburbs. Now it seems they extend to Lancaster. The northern ‘burbs? I’m thinking Yardley and Doylestown. Who knew the area now extends to Allentown and the Poconos.

How convenient that some of the local TV stations now have “Lehigh Valley bureaus.” All the better to stick a ruler in the snow. After all, they get more snow in Allentown than they do in Clifton Heights, don’t they?

Here’s the deal. We’re going to get a combination of glop today, with the possibility of snow, rain and ice all falling at some point this afternoon.
Who gets how much likely will depend on where you live.

Plan on everybody and their mother pouring out of offices and schools at the first sign of snowflakes, bringing all traffic to an immediate halt.

And if you live in the “northern and western suburbs.” Well, if you can figure out where that is, it might be a good day to just pull the covers up over your head.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 11

The Daily Numbers: 5 degrees, that’s what it feels like out there this morning when you figure in the wind factor.

2.5 inches of snow, that’s all we’ve gotten so far this winter. Doesn’t bother me in the least.

27 people who were chased out of their homes and into bitter cold conditions last night when flames roared through an apartment in New Castle, Del.

9 people who fled a fire in Chester Sunday morning. No injuries were reported in the blaze at Fifth and Kerlin streets.

1 firefighter who was injured while fighting a blaze on Valley View Drive in Radnor on Sunday. The volunteer fell 10 feet from a ladder.

12, age of female student who died of pneumococcal meningitis in Haddon Township, N.J.

60 foot tree that fell onto an SUV in Reading. The driver was killed. His wife was critically injured. The SUV was traveling 50 mph when the massive tree was toppled by high winds and fell directly on top of the vehicle.

168,000 dollar loss reported in fourth quarter by Beneficial Mutual Bancorp.

2 gunshot wounds, in stomach and legs, suffered by man who threatened a Philadelphia police officer in an alleyway on Willard Street.

68 car pileup that occurred during a blinding snow squall on Interstate 81 near Hazleton Sunday afternoon. One driver was killed.

2 dead, 4 wounded in another weekend of violence on the streets of Philadelphia.

3 people killed when flames roared through a row home in Hunting Park early Saturday. A grandfather and two young boys were killed.

4 wins over the weekend for Sen. Barack Obama, who swept contests in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington Saturday, and in Maine yesterday.

5 Grammy Awards for Amy Winehouse, who had to perform via satellite after she was denied a visa. She still looks like a train wreck.

1 new campaign boss for Hillary Clinton after she sacked a longtime aide who had been heading her campaign.

2 goals for R.J. Umberger yesterday, but the Flyers still lost in Pittsburgh, 4-3.

3 straight losses for the Flyers, who now find themselves four points behind the Pens and wondering about the availability of ailing star Simon Gagne, who left the game with concussion syndromes again.

2 Two brothers from Bonner who are leading the charge for Penn State Brandywine. Andrew and Mike Thornton lead the 12-6 Lions squad.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
In four days spring will arrive. That’s when pitchers and catchers report for the start of Phillies training camp in Clearwater.

I Don’t Get It: All this hot air about steroids in baseball that is being huffed and puffed about in D.C. Who cares? Don’t they have anything better to do?


Today’s Upper: If you can get your teeth to stop chattering when you leave the office this afternoon, take a moment to notice that it is still light out. Spring is coming. Honest.


Quote Box: “Like a flower, it has just come to bloom in the last two, two and a half years.”

-- The Rev. Joseph Corley, on the increase in African immigrants into his Darby parish.

Confessions of a weathe wimp

Go ahead, call me a wimp.

I’ll go you one better. I’ll plead guilty. I am a wimp. A weather wimp, that is.
That fact is I hate winter.

Which makes this an especially brutal Monday morning.

If you have not been outside yet, brace yourself. It’s flat-out nasty out there this morning.

Yes, I know that we’ve had a mild winter. I know that we have had almost no snow, a little more than 2 inches in fact. That’s what we used to call a dusting.

I don’t care. All I know is that my distaste for winter grows every year.

This year is no different. I don’t like the fact that it gets dark early. I drive to work in the dark. And drive home in the dark.

People have told me I have what they refer to as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Whatever it is, I think I suffer from it.

I long for the days when I could toss on a pair of shorts and run outside. I wouldn’t suggest doing that this morning.

I stand in my kitchen and look forlornly out at my screened-in porch, which looks so desolate and unappealing when the temperature is in the single digits.

It was 10 degrees when I left the house this morning. The wind was howling. The air literally could take your breath away.

But all is not lost. I noticed a wonderful thing this weekend. I was sitting down to watch the 6 o’clock news yesterday when it hit me. It was still light outside. Not a lot, but it was unmistakable.

The Phillies pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Thursday.
It’s a promise of spring. And not a moment too soon.

The print column

Here's a look at this week's print column and the continuing push to land a major league soccer team to play its games in Chester.

If you build it, will they come?

I don’t know about that, but if you hold a press conference to announce the state is kicking in $47 million to a project to build a soccer stadium on the Chester waterfront, they’ll beat a path to your door.

By now you’re no doubt aware of the little soiree thrown by our political Odd Couple, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Republican state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, last week to announce the state funding for the stadium project in Chester.

Now all they need is a team to play there. And that’s part of the problem. The stadium financing deal was 11 days ago. And there’s still no word from Major League Soccer on where they will deposit their 16th franchise.

The belief was that with the final block in the financing riddle now under lock and key, that the field would tip decidedly in favor of the Chester site, which has been running neck and neck with a similar proposal being bandied about in suburban St. Louis.

Maybe MLS is simply holding out to hike the drama. Then again, not everyone believes that this is a field of dreams in the first place.

I don’t happen to be among them. Neither is this newspaper. We have been a persistent booster of the project. I am aware this is not a unanimous opinion.
When the idea of building a 20,000-seat, $115 million sports stadium in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge was first proposed, there were no shortage of raised eyebrows and those who dismissed the idea as nonsense.

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, for one noted the folly of such a venture in a city that does not offer its residents a single legitimate supermarket. It’s a good point. There are a lot of problems in Chester, despite the clear indications of an economic turnaround. Certainly there are things that $47 million in state funding could be used for that would have more benefit than building a stadium for some deep-pocketed investors.

And yet there was Kirkland at the press conference to announce the funding agreement. No, he was not there to protest what the city does not have. He was there to support the project, which now includes specific funding to bring a supermarket to the city. There also is language that would deliver a portion of ticket revenues to kids in the Chester Upland School District.

That has not stopped those who oppose the plan from lodging their opposition.
If this was only a plan to build a stadium in Chester, we likely still would be intrigued, but not to the extent that we are now.

That’s because this is decidedly not just a proposal to build a stadium. Pileggi, for one, saw to that. He knows a little about Chester. He served as its mayor, and it was under his term that the first seeds of redevelopment along the waterfront took root with the restoration of the old Peco Power Station at the Wharf at Rivertown. Then came Harrah’s with its racetrack and slots parlor. Now just on the other side of the Commodore Barry, they want to erect a stadium.

But the stadium is just one facet of a $400 milllion development that would include retail outlets, restaurants, apartments, townhouses, an expo center and several office buildings. There also would be a riverwalk and boat slips that would put Chester on a par with anything the Wilmington or Camden waterfronts have to offer.
Chester would be a destination point. A Major League town, if you will.

The big challenge with this project is making sure the economic benefits find their way across Route 291 and into other parts of the city. It is no small task, but it is certainly one worth doing.

On thing I know. If they build this thing, I know one group that will be there. The Sons of Ben are a local group of soccer fanatics who have been pushing for more than a year now to attract an MLS franchise to the Philly area.

They took a road trip to Washington, D.C., for the MLS Cup championship game.
Then they went back down I-95 to Baltimore, where Major League Soccer was holding its draft.

They also were on hand for the announcement of the stadium funding deal.
If they build it, these guys will come. And they have some ideas on what the team that plays there should be called.

I’ll talk about that next week.

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, February 8, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 8

The Daily Numbers: 573,792 dollars, the amount prosecutors sayd bookkeeper Carol Ackley ripped off from the Ridley School District.

48,000 annual salary for former County Council boss Andy Reilly in his new gig representing the district attorney’s office in any civil matters.

2.29 per gallon, what we were paying for gas just one year ago. Price at the Wawa today? $2.91.

671 million bucks being paid by regional drug giant Merck & Co. to settle claims that it overcharged on four popular drugs.

6 people killed in a rampage in a St. Louis, Mo., suburb when a man opened fire during a meeting of borough council. Police say the suspect believed the town was harassing him.

800 million bucks, how much experts say is bet illegally on sports events in New Jersey. The Assembly has OK’d a measure that would allow voters to decide if casinos can offer legal sports betting.

43, age of a female teacher’s aide in Burlington County, N.J., charged with having sexual relations with a male student.

10 bank heists in Philadelphia being blamed on the ‘Bomber Bandit.’ Police say he enters banks with a device he claims is a bomb and demands money.

1,000,000 dollars in damages caused by series of arson fires to 7 barns in Berks and Montgomery counties. A volunteer firefighter has pleaded guilty in the spree.

150 paintballs fired at a Fayette County church in a graffiti rampge. The name of the town where it occurred? Normalville. Go figure.

3 soldiers killed when an IED exploded in Iraq. The dead include Sgt. Timothy R. Van Orman, of Port Matilda, Pa.

29 percent boost in sales reported by Urban Outfitters. Someone out there is making money.

1 Value City store, at the Tri-State Mall in Claymont, closing its doors.

100 million dollars in tax breaks for two casinos planned for the Philadelphia waterfront that are now under fire by a new city councilman.

1 and done for the Upper Darby girls, who lost in the PIAA District 1 playoffs last night, 51-48, to Downingtown West.

20 wins against 30 losses for the Sixers, who drubbed the Shaq-less Miami Heat last night.

600,000 dollars for utility infielder Eric Bruntlett, who the Phils picked up in the Brad Lidge deal. That’s peanuts for pro athletes today. So where do we sign up.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Eagles slapped a franchise label on L.J. Smith, meaning he likely will be their tight end next year. What’s the over-under on the number of times he gets cartwheeled and coughs the ball up?

I Don’t Get It: All this hot air about steroids in baseball that is being huffed and puffed about in D.C. Who cares? Don’t they have anything better to do?


Today’s Upper: Gas prices are coming down. I’ll take it. Of course, they’re still a lot higher than this time next year. And why do I think they’ll start going up again right around the Memorial Day weekend?


Quote Box: “It was a very clever scheme concealed by her for a number of years. We were shocked and saddened by it.”

-- Ridley Schools Superintendent Nick Ignatuk, on the scam perpetrated on the district by a longtime employee who ripped off more than $570,000.

Rolling the dice -- and losing big time

When Pennsylvania first rolled the dice and entered a new era of legalized gambling, there were a few ripples of dissent, those who said all those slot machines would take a toll.

Lives would be ruined. Businesses would suffer. Gambling addictions would rise. The cost to society would be measurable.

In some instances, the one-armed bandits would spawn two-armed bandits.

Meet Carol Ackley.

Ackley was a longtime employee of the Ridley School District, where she routinely handled retired teachers’ health insurance checks.

She also was something else. According to her lawyer, Ackley was a gambling addict.
She was not in a slots parlor Thursday. She was in a Delaware County courtroom, where she admitted to stealing more than a half-million dollars from those school district accounts.

And she says she dumped all of it into casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and right here at the new Harrah’s in Chester.

Ackley made $39,000 a year as a Ridley School District payroll coordinator. The total amount she is charged with skimming from the district comes to $573,792.
“She gambled every penny away,” said her defense attorney Kevin Wray.

Amazingly, Ackley was able to perpetrate this scam for six years, routinely fooling even auditors who found nothing wrong with the district’s books.

The district says about 60 or 70 retirees were victimized. Their insurance company will cover the losses.

Yes, there is unquestionably a down side to more legalized gambling.

Carol Ackley rolled the dice. And she lost big time. It’s likely people’s confidence in Ridley’s bookkeeping operation also will take a hit.

She won’t be the last to go down this road. The county has seen a rash of these kinds of white-collar rip-offs. Don’t be surprised to learn gambling played a role in them as well.

Oh, and this just in: The New Jersey Assembly approved a bill that would allow state voters to decide if they want Atlantic City casinos to be able to offer sports betting.

Somewhere, some poor soul just like Carol Ackley is greedily rubbing his or her hands together, with dreams of big wins dancing in their heads.

Unfortunately, those dreams all too often turn into nighmares.

Sinking in the high-tech mire

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of the technology that increasingly dominates our life. I wear the “dinosaur” label proudly.

It could be said we are swimming in gadgets. Or sinking, depending on your point of view.

Take, for instance, the case against a Collegeville man and woman who were sentenced to jail time for what can best be described as high-tech harassment.

Here is their idea of a good time: Prosecutors say the pair were using an online service called SpoofCard. The company is legitimate. Unfortunately, as with a lot of services, it can be twisted into something a lot more sinister.

What the online service SpoofCard allows you to do is hide, or change, the number being displayed on someone’s caller ID. The idea is that someone might not want the person they are calling to know who they are or where they are calling from.

That’s one way of looking at it. It’s also a way to deliver a high-tech hoax.

And as usual, sometimes people get carried away. In the Collegeville incident, calls were placed to several women in Montgomery County in the middle of the night. When they answered the phone, they were told the caller was inside their house. And lo and behold the number being displayed on the phone was indeed the home phone number. Some fun, eh?

Both the man and woman who placed the prank calls spent a few days in prison after entering pleas to harassment and terroristic threats.

And it reminds me again of one of my favorite desires. Just once I’d like to get my hands around the neck of the person who insists on telling me, “Yeah, this technology is going to make your life so much better.”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 7

The Daily Numbers: 13 percent boost in funding for the financially strapped William Penn School District under Gov. Ed Rendell’s spending plan.

3 years, how long an Upper Providence woman’s was missing before she was reunited with her beloved cockapoo mix, thanks to a chip implanted in her shoulder.

67 degrees, the record high we hit yesterday. So much for Punxsutawney Phil’s prognostication.

32 degrees, the expected high on Sunday. Maybe Phil knows what he’s talking about after all.

50 cents a gallon less, what we could be paying for gasoline over the next few months. Can’t these people make up their minds? Last week they were saying we’d be paying $3.50 a gallon by June.

2.91 the current posted price for unleaded regular at the Wawa at Baltimore Pike and Bishop Avenue.

250,000 people expected to pour into the Philadelphia Flower Show next month. They held a preview yesterday. This year they’re going with a jazz theme, creating the sights and sounds of New Orleans.

5 million dollars given to Temple University by an anonymous donor. The money came via checks along with letters from a bank officer in plain envelopes. The benefactor does not want to be publicly named.

25 headstones in a Philadelphia cemetery damaged when an SUV went out of control. Damage is believed to be more than $100,000.

22 percent dip in revenue reported by homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc.

2,300 jobs being axed by department store giant Macy’s as it reshuffles its retailing division.

13 percent hike in profits for health insurer Cigna Corp.

12,000 kids going back to school today in Downingtown after a tentative deal ended a week-long strike by teachers in Chester County’s largest school district.

3 years since anyone has seen Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone after they left a South Street nightclub. Police now believe they may have the victims of a murder-for-hire plot.

3 goals in the third period that led the Caps to a win over the Flyers at the Wachovia Center.

102 points given up by Saint Joe’s last night as they fell on the road Duquesne.

19 members in the Flyers Hall of Fame. Former goalie Ron Hextall joined that elite group last night in an emotional ceremony at the Wachovia Center.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
If ever there was a guy who bled orange it would be Ron Hextall. That’s why he was loved by the fans, even if he had his ups and downs in the playoffs. Here’s a novel thought. Want a really electric night at the Wachovia Center? How about enshrining Eric Lindros into the Hall of Fame. After all, they might not even have a new building if Lindros was not there to make sure all those seats would be filled.

I Don’t Get It: Property tax reform is once again going nowhere fast in Harrisburg. Talk about a group that doesn’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Hey, it looks like our votes might count after all. Don’t look now, but the Pennsylvania Primary on April 22 now is being looked at as the crucial Democratic faceoff between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.


Quote Box: “If they are willing to give us 13 percent for the next couple of years, we’ll deal with the strings. We certainly won’t turn it back.”

-- William Penn School District chief operations officer Joe Otto, talking about Gov. Ed Rendell’s education funding plan.

A gender-bender of a crime spree

It’s the picture that really gets you. The prim, proper woman gazing out from the pages of the newspaper looks like she could be your kindly grandmother.

She doesn’t seem like a crook. Or someone who police believe was slowly, methodically ripping off the company where she worked for 20 years for close to a million bucks.

That is the case being laid out against Elizabeth Greenawalt, the 66-year-old Thornbury woman who now faces charges that she was helping herself to the money at Environmental Equipment & Service Co. in Marcus Hook. The total of the missing money comes to a cool $925,000.

Greenawalt worked at the firm for more than 20 years and was considered a “trusted” employee.

We don’t know at this point what Greenawalt is alleged to have done with the money.
What I do know, or wonder about, is this. What is it suddenly with women sticking their hand into the till? It seems to be all the rage in the county. Greenawalt is just the latest in a string of high-profile cases in which authorities believe unsuspecting employers were fleeced by female employees.

There was the case out in Bethel, where their bookkeeper admitted ripping off more than $400,000 in tax funds.

There is an investigation underway in Thornbury, where the female treasurer was recently fired and an audit of the books is underway amid allegations of misappropriations.

Two different Delco schools also have been victimized.

In Ridley, the payroll coordinator is awaiting trial after she admitted helping herself to more than $570,000 over the last six years.

Down the road in Southeast Delco, $287,000 in lunch money disappeared. The woman who oversaw the program faces charges.

Even the courts have been hit. The former office manager of Folcroft District Court found herself on the other side of the law after a probe turned up $2,750 in parking tickets money disappeared. She’s now on house arrest.

Inevitably, we try to detail what the suspects did with the money. Sometimes it goes back to personal problems, like a gambling addiction.

It also inevitably leads to something else: Ruined lives.

Only way to start the day

Nothing like a nice voice-mail message to start the day. It’s the way I begin most of my days here in beautiful downtown Primos. I open the door to my office, and the first thing I see is that flashing red light on the phone.

This morning a man, who of course did not bother to identify himself, wanted to let me know what he thought about three different stories in yesterday’s paper.

What had his dander up were the stories concerning William Ernest, who entered a plea to involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with a beating that led to the death of his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s; Glenn Manus, who was seeking to get out on bail while he awaits trial on charges of molesting several children; and Joseph Melito, a 76-year-old man who pleaded guilty in a case in which he lured a woman with a mental disability into his home and then sexually assaulted her.

I get the feeling this gentleman didn’t appreciate reading these stories. He also didn’t much care for the way the way the justice system was working in these three instances.

“They ought to just take them out and shoot them,” the man said.

Uh, no, that’s not the way the system works.
But it’s the way some people feel.

Not me. I get depressed enough just trying to report these cases as they make their way through the justice system. I can’t imagine the kind of emotions the police and district attorney’s office deal with as they sort through these impossibly sad sagas.

They do a pretty good job of dispensing justice. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the kind of rash, emotional, snap judgment the phone caller had in mind.

Thank god for that.

Another daily dose of Britney

There are not many days when I am ashamed of what I do for a living.

Look, I’m a member of the so-called “media.” That means I get to question things every day. It also means people get to question what I do. That’s part of the ground rules.

I don’t hold myself up as some kind of expert on journalism, the media, and specifically what it is people want to read every day. I can tell you that what people want today is not what they wanted when I got out of college three decades ago.

Things change. Certainly the media has. I will tell you the line as to what is news and what isn’t, as well as reporting the news or just giving people what they want, or what we can sell, seems to blur a little more each day.

But my stomach starts to roil every time I watch a horde of photographers surrounding a car in which – so I am told – sits one frazzled pop tart by the name of Britney Spears.

I get a good view of all this because it is being pumped into my television news via helicopter hovering above the fray.

I have long ago tired of Britney and her downward spiral. To me it’s no longer especially interesting. It’s just sad. Yes, I suppose it’s news that Britney left the hospital. I suppose it should find a place on the People page. But do we really need the commotion that surrounds her every move?

It’s like some kind of sick co-dependence: Britney like an addict needing her next media fix; and the junkies who bring us this kind of “news” salivating over their next Britney brouhaha.

My fear is that all of this is heading for a very sad end. I wish Britney would go away and get whatever help she needs. And I wish the media would let her do just that, without providing me with every titillating detail.

I wouldn’t bet on it, though.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 6

The Daily Numbers: 22 states that went to the polls yesterday to vote for Democratic and Republican candidates for president. None of those states happened to be Pennsylvania.

613 delegates for Sen. John McCain, the GOP front-runner. He needs 1,191 for the nomination.

845 delegates for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. She’s locked in a very tight battle with Sen. Barack Obama, who has 765 delegates. A Democrat needs to capture 2,025 for the nomination.

1 as in No. 1. When it comes to issues on voters’ minds, the economy registered at the top of the heap, according to exit polling done on Super Tuesday.

8 Delaware County school districts that would receive a boost in aid under the budget plan rolled out yesterday by Gov. Ed Rendell.

6 percent hike overall for education subsidies in the Rendell budget. That would amount to another $291 million.

10 cents more per pack that would be forked over by cigarette smokers if Rendell gets his way. The money would go to his Cover All Pennsylvanians health plan.

86,000 dollar jackpot a woman says she’s entitled to in a dispute with Harrah’s in Atlantic City. She says she hit the bug number, but was then told that actually was the last payout the machine made, and instead she was getting only $20,000. Now she’s suing for the bigger prize.

170 complaints, some from Delaware County, logged by the state attorney general against Celebration Studios photographers. The state is now filing suit against the firm trying to get the photos or refunds for frustrated customers.

6 female students at Unionville High School who police now believe took nude pictures of themselves and then sent them via cell phones to their friends. Police and the school are now investigating.

14 year-old female student police say was sexually assaulted by a teacher at South Philadelphia High School. He’s 30.

1 ranking of US Airways among the 10 largest air carriers for on-time performance in December.

2 million dollars in consulting fees on which the feds claim Milton Street, brother of former Mayor John Street, failed to pay taxes. He goes on trial today.

200 jobs being eliminated and 150 stores being closed by Charming Shoppes Inc. in the latest retailing downsizing.

9 Delco athletes who signed on for their commitment to colleges yesterday.

4 football players from southeastern Pennsylvania who could be wearing a Villanova uniform next year.

17 point fourth-quarter run that paved the way for a win for the Sixers last night against the Wizards.

14,563 the announced attendance at the Wachovia Center last night. It looked like about half that amount were actually in the seats.

7 straight wins for the Flyers over the Atlanta Thrashers, including last night’s 3-2 victory.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So the lowly, upstart, humble Giants brought down the hated, arrogant, smug Patriots. Then they held a parade and the Giants proved they could be just as big in the oafish department. So much for grace in victory.

I Don’t Get It: What is with it with kids and using the Internet to send out nude pix to their pals? First it was in Allentown. Now a report is being investigated in Unionville. Doesn’t anyone just toilet paper the trees in a neighborhood anymore?


Today’s Upper: Raise your hand if you gave up trying to follow the dizzying numbers of vote and delegate counts last night. Good, I’m not alone.


Quote Box: “The important part is that the governor has taken the lead, like no other governor has done in the past.”

-- Rep. Nick Micozzie of Upper Darby, talking about Gov. Ed Rendell’s education funding plan.

Super Tuesday, the short form

Here’s the short form for what you need to know about Super Tuesday voting, you know, the day when residents in 24 states not named Pennsylvania got a huge say in deciding who our next president will be.

On the Democratic side, it’s time to hunker down. This is going to be an epic battle pitting Sen. Hillary Clinton against Sen. Barack Obama. So tight is this contest that Pennsylvanians actually might be casting meaningful votes on April 22.

On the Republican ledger, Super Tuesday was just that for Sen. John McCain. He emerges as the clear front-runner, capped by a critical win in California.

Appropriately enough for Mitt Romney, today is Ash Wednesday. And his campaign will now need to rise Phoenix-like from the ashes if he wants to derail the McCain express.

McCain opened up a yawning gulf in the delegate battle, stashing 570 yesterday to just 176 for Romney. Overall, the Arizona senator now has 613 on his side. He needs 1,191 to win the nomination.

The Democratic side is much more of a dogfight, with Clinton and Obama trading victories and sharing in the treasure trove of prized delegates.

Clinton took California, while Obama took 13 in total, to just eight for Clinton. In terms of delegates, Clinton now has 845 to Obama’s 765, with 2,025 needed to sew up the nomination.

Locally, New Jersey voters backed Clinton and McCain. Down in Delaware, it was Obama and McCain claiming the winner’s mantle.

Here are a couple of key things to consider in the mountain of numbers that came out of yesterday’s voting.

On the Republican side, can Romney right the ship and stay in the fight? Or is it time to throw in the towel?

On the Democratic side, one thing’s certain, Democrats are about to make history, nominating either a woman or an African-American as their standard-bearer.

Here’s the question I’m wondering about. What would their ticket be? Would either candidate turn to the other as a running mate, and would the other accept?

Hey, only two more months before we go to the polls.

Bucks stop here for education

I’d like you to jot down two dates.

One would be Feb. 5. That would be yesterday. Fat Tuesday. It could become Fat City for several Delaware County school districts if Ed Rendell gets his budget wish.

The other date is July 1. That’s almost five months away. That’s when, by law, Pennsylvania must have a new spending plan in place.

As they say to those still waiting for property tax reform, “Don’t put the house on it.”

Rendell yesterday rolled out $28 billion spending plan. He’s calling it a “slow-growth” plan in a “tight budget year.”

But it increases spending by more than 4 percent. That comes to about a billion dollars.

And he plans to do it without raising taxes, other than slapping a new 10-cent-a-pack levy on everybody’s favorite punching bag, cigarette smokers. Those funds largely would be earmarked for his Cover All Pennsylvanians health care plan.

There also is a “public benefits charge” on electricity use, amounting to 0.05 cents per killowatt hour. It would cost most people about 50 cents a month. That money would go into his energy plan.

The big winner here, unquestionably, is education. Rendell is heeding the call of a special costing-out study delivered last fall that pointed out the state is woefully underfunding education.

The governor wants to increase education funding to the tune of $291 million, nearly 6 percent. That would be the biggest hike in two decades. The costing-out study indicated the state needed to pump another $4.38 billion into education the level the playing field.

Among the districts looking at the biggest infusion in cash would be several in Delaware County. Upper Darby actually would see the biggest boost in the state, with a 22 percent hike. Other struggling districts also would see big spikes in state aid, including Southeast Delco at 17 percent, William Penn at 13 percent, and Interboro at 10 percent.

Talking about increasing education funding is one thing. Just ask Rep. Nick Micozzie. He’s been fighting this battle for years. A few years back he rolled out his Successful Schools Plan that would ease property taxes and increase other levies in an attempt both to make school funding more equitable and ease the burden of property taxes.

The plan went nowhere, as even Micozzie’s GOP colleagues from Delco gave the plan the cold shoulder.

Now it’s Rendell’s turn to tilt at this windmill.

Circle that date. July 1. And don’t be surprised if we’re still having this discussion in the last week of June.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 5

The Daily Numbers: 628 arrests for drunken driving made by state troopers at the Media Barracks in 2007. That’s 117 more than they made in 2006 .

1 as in No. 1, where the Delco troopers rank in the state in terms of DUI arrests. And that’s for the third straight year.

925,000 dollars, the amount believed ripped off from a Marcus Hook firm by a longtime, trusted, 66-year-old bookkeeper.

22 percent hike in state funding for the Upper Darby School District under the budget plan being unveiled by Gov. Ed Rendell today.

400 dollars, what the governor wants to give low-income families in the states as an economic stimulus. That would amount to some 475,000 families.

100 more cops for the city of Philadelphia under the Rendell spending plan.

291 million dollars more Gov. Ed Rendell wants to pour into the state education system as he prepares to roll out his budget Tuesday.

4 percent of its market value, what the home of state Sen. Vince Fumo is assessed at in Philly. Now the paperwork that determined that assessment is missing. Fumo is trying to sell the house.

45, age of a teacher in Bucks County charged with making a series of terroristic threats against her school. Officials say she wanted to teach fifth grade and instead was assigned to a fourth-grade class.

1 inch of snow recorded in the region in January. We’ve only gotten 2.6 inches all winter. The normal snowfall in January is almost 10 inches.

2 car crash on Route 322 the shut down the Conchester during Monday’s evening rush hour.

23 miles of the Delaware Canal in Bucks County that is now without water because of a collapse in a towpath.

21, age of man who waived extradition in Philly on charges stemming from Texas, where police believe he stomped his infant son to death.

55 points for the Villanova Wildcats last night as they got mauled by Saint Joe’s in the Holy War at the Palestra.

14 straight wins for the ‘Cats against Big 5 foes heading into last night’s showdown. So much for that streak.

5 straight losses for Villanova.

20 point first-quarter lead against Atlanta for the Sixers last night. They frittered that away and ended up losing, 96-91.

902 wins for college coaching legend Bobby Knight. He stepped down last night as coach of Texas Tech. His son will take over the program.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
As usual, the Flyers are making medical news. Joffrey Lupul will not be back in the lineup as quickly as he would like to be. And he doesn’t sound especially happy about it.

I Don’t Get It: Remember the Tweeter Center? Well forget it. The concert venue on the waterfront in Camden is being renamed, this time for Susquehanna Bank. It will be called the Susquehanna Bank Center. That one is going to need a nickname.


Today’s Upper: Property tax relief isn’t dead yet. A proposal that would limit relief to senior citizens has been put on hold. That means there’s still some hope for the rest of us.


Quote Box: “Drinking and driving is dangerous. We’re doing everything we can to prevent if from happening.”

-- Sgt. Jim Fisher, of the Media state police, on their ranking as No. 1 in the state in DUI arrests for the third straight year.

Fat Tuesday in Upper Darby

Today is Fat Tuesday, the annual blowout that precedes Ash Wednesday and the season of reflection known as Lent.

Around these parts, it might be a whole different kind of Fat Tuesday for those in the Upper Darby School District.

That’s because if Gov. Ed Rendell gets his way, the school district may be getting fat indeed. No, not their waistlines. We’re talking about their bank accounts.

Rendell today will present his annual budget plan. It is believed he will take to heart the suggestions of a costing-out study completed last fall that pointed out the state is severely short-changing school districts across the state when it comes to funding.

Rendell is looking to rectify that situation. And right at the top of the list sits the Upper Darby School District.

The governor wants to pump some $291 million more into education. That comes to about 5.9 percent.

It’s not exactly a secret that the state has been falling woefully short of its mission to provide 50 percent of education funding costs. The costing-out study delivered last fall only confirmed those suspicions, indicating Pennsylvania was in fact a cool $4.38 billion being the eight-ball.

Across the state, the study indicated that 474 of Pennsylvania’s 501 school districts are adequately funded.

At the top of the list to get help under the Rendell plan would be Upper Darby, in large part because the proposal is weighted to aid those districts dealing with large student populations who are learning English. That certainly fits the bill in Upper Darby.

Under the Rendell plan, they would be in line for a 22 percent hike in state aid, the biggest boost in the state.

As you might guess, the news is being greeted with open arms in Upper Darby.
“We are excited that the governor has identified Upper Darby as its primary target for funding,” Said Lou DeVlieger, assistant superintendent in Upper Darby.

Of course they caution that this is all preliminary. It’s only a proposal. Just because Ed Rendell wants to do it does not mean it’s going to get done. After all, this isn’t funding for a soccer stadium or a proposal for slot-machine gambling in the state.

This is just our kids’ education.

Let’s hope the Legislature gets on board.

The Super Bowl of voting

You’ve survived Wing Bowl, that annual excess of eating that precedes the Super Bowl.
And we managed to actually make it through the big game itself, having suffered through a four-hour pre-game show. That’s right, the pre-game hype now actually lasts longer than the game does.

Now comes Super Tuesday, what amounts to a Super Bowl of voting.

People in 24 states will trudge to the polls today in the biggest primary day in U.S. history. Among them will be voters in New Jersey and Delaware.

Not getting a chance to vote for either Hillary or Obama, or McCain or Romney, will be the good citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We’ll still be sitting on the sidelines.

That’s because our primary is not even yet a glimmer on the horizon. The Pennsylvania Primary takes place April 22. Not much is likely to still be in doubt by then, although the Democratic tussle between senators Clinton and Obama may still be raging.

In the meantime, much like our sports teams, we have no dog in this fight today.
We’ll have to be content to sit on the sidelines and take in the action.
And yes, the hype will be every bit as over-the-top as anything we saw on Sunday. As will the instant analysis.

We can only hope the commercials are better.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 4

The Daily Numbers: 2.7 million dollars, what it cost for a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl telecast last night. A lot of people didn’t get their money’s worth.

94.08 million people who watched the 1996 Super Bowl, the all-time high that was expected to be eclipsed by last night’s thriller.

4 classic hits performed by halftime show star Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

13 yard pass floated to Plaxico Burress in the end zone by Eli Manning to lift the Giants to a Super win.

1 spectacular catch by David Tyree on a desperation third-down toss from Manning after escaping the Patriots’ rush that kept the final drive alive. Anyone else thinking about Freddie Mitchell and 4th and 26 at that moment?

24 states holding presidential primaries tomorrow. That’s why they call it Super Tuesday.

291 million dollars more Gov. Ed Rendell wants to pour into the state education system as he prepares to roll out his budget Tuesday.

8 hours of talks Sunday that failed to reach an agreement in the strike by teachers in Downingtown. Teachers will be picketing again this morning. All classes are canceled.

2 weeks, how long a Delaware man had been missing after leaving a Ridley bar. His body was found in a wooded area behind the tavern yesterday.

4,000 people who packed Rodney Square in Wilmington Sunday for a rally by Democratic presidential challenger Sen. Barack Obama. Delaware votes in its primary Tuesday, as does New Jersey.

522,000 dollars raised by a group that took a chilly plunge in the Atlantic Ocean in Rehoboth Beach, Del., yesterday.

2,767 people who took the plunge on a fairly mild Sunday at the beach.

21 percent, the amount of college graduates in Philadelphia. That puts the city in the bottom quarter of major U.S. cities.

14 more days pop star Britney Spears is due to spend in the psychiatric wing of an L.A. hospital.

14 points, all that the mighty Patriots could muster against the Giants tenacious defense in last night’s Super Bowl.

19 for 34 for Giants QB Eli Manning. He also threw 1 interception.

29 for 48 for Patriots QB Tom Brady.

1 as in the top seed in District 1, for the Chester Clippers boys basketball team.

1 as in the top seed in District 1, for the Sun Valley women’s basketball team.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Dec. 9, 2007. Giants 16, Eagles 13. Remember? David Akers field goal bounced off the upright. Now the Giants are Super Bowl champions.

I Don’t Get It: Someone please explain to me why we need a four-hour Super Bowl pre-game show, other than to hype the shows of the network broadcasting the game. Me? I was watching golf.


Today’s Upper: Still looking for a party after Wing Bowl, Groundhog Day and Super Bowl Sunday? Never fear. Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday.


Quote Box: “We had a great year. It’s just unfortunate that tonight turned out the way it did.”

-- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, after the team lost its first game of the year, unfortunately in the Super Bowl.

A super assistant

So maybe you made it through the world’s longest pre-game show. And since when exactly did the NFL and Super Bowl come complete with the red carpet treatment?

Then you struggled through some of the worst commercials to grace the big game in a long time. Anyone else glad they weren’t the ones signing the check for $2.7 million it cost to get 30 seconds of air time during the game?

And then you struggled to pay attention to the first half of the game amid the gluttony that is the other staple of the game, wings, pizza, chips, dip, beer, soda.
And of course you checked out the halftime show featuring Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and tried desperately to explain to your kids who this old man was.

If you did all of that, you were rewarded with something special. A second-half of the game that lived up to its name: Super.

Of course, if you were me, you are taking everyone’s word for it, since I managed to fall asleep with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, in the process missing all the drama.

But I have a theory about the game, one that Eagles fans are not going to like.
That’s because I believe the unbeatable Patriots, the team on a mission, marching toward an invincible mark of 19-0, were done in by one of our own.

That would be Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. If the name sounds familiar, it should. He learned his craft, the one that so confused the Patriots and Tom Brady (maybe the only time this year I’ve seen Brady in this position) at the hand of the master. That would be Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.

Spagnuolo was on his staff before taking over the Giants defense.

Try that one on for size this morning. A former Eagles assistant devised the plan that toppled the mighty Patriots.

Unless of course you just think it’s because the Patriots weren’t allowed to cheat this time around.

The Catholic issue again

I’ve developed a fairly thick skin when it comes to criticism directed toward me and the newspaper. It pretty much goes with the territory. I know that on any given day something we do or print will likely infuriate one group or another.

Still, I have to admit I was taken aback at the voice-mail that greeted me this morning.

It was a familiar voice. But this time he was making a claim I had not heard before. In fact, he was making just the opposite.

There is a not small contingent out there who believe the newspaper is virulently anti-Catholic, that we never miss an opportunity to attack the church. In effect, they accuse us of Catholic-bashing.

Chief among them is a fiercely loyal group of Cardinal O’Hara alumni who do not like the way we covered the Tim Donaghy case. He is the O’Hara grad and NBA ref who was at the center of a gambling scandal that rocked the league.

But the message I got this morning was not that we are anti-Catholic. In fact, this caller wanted to express just the opposite.

We blatantly pro-Catholic, and censor any message that does not agree with that view. The caller said that no Sound Offs or letters to the editor critical of Cardinal Justin Rigali or the church ever appear in print.

He went a little further, suggesting that not only are we blatantly telling only one side of issues involving the archdiocese, we also are blindly pro-Irish.

Now I suppose it is not an accident that I am both very Irish and very Catholic.
I guess the caller had not yet seen my print column this morning, lamenting the continuing decline of archdiocesan schools in the eastern end of the county.

Yep, sure sounds like the work of someone who will never print anything critical of the Catholic church to me.

The Print Column

Here's a copy of this week's print column, lamenting the continuing struggles of archdiocesan schools in the eastern end of the county.

Whenever I am speaking in public, especially when I’m being interrogated by a group of students, one question inevitably pops up.

Even if they are not reading newspapers (and all studies tell us they are doing just that in increasing numbers), they are intrigued by this notion of newsgathering and just how one becomes a newspaper editor.

So one of them usually works up the gumption to ask. “Mr. Heron, why do you think you became a newspaper editor?”

It’s a good question. Luckily, I have what I think is a good answer. It wasn’t for the glory. I toil here, thankfully, pretty much anonymously much of the time. And it’s not for the pay. Remember all the fanfare about Alycia Lane and her $800,000 TV anchor gig? Well, let’s just say I’m not in that neighborhood.

But I think I know exactly why it is that do what I do. Yes, I grew up in a house where newspaper reading was the norm. My mother and father would not dream of a day without devouring several daily newspapers. My father used to brag that he often would read every word in the paper, the ads included. Of course all of that was simply pretext to his real passion, the entries to that day’s horse-racing card at Delaware Park.

Today, I’m sure a lot of kids grow up in similar homes. That doesn’t mean they pick up the newspaper habit.

Actually, “habit” has everything to do with it. I believe I do what I do in large part because for the first eight years of my education, I was schooled at the firm hand (and brass ruler) of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I can diagram a sentence like nobody’s business. I know my subject, predicate and object. You know, the one that takes the slanted line.

The nuns instilled in me a love of reading and words, and what they can accomplish when you string enough of them together. To this day I am a voracious reader, on the increasingly rare occasions when I can pick up a book without nodding off 15 minutes later.

I know of no one who is a good writer who is not also a prolific reader. They go hand in hand.

Which is a roundabout way of bringing me to my point: I am what I am today in large part because of the lessons I learned those eight years.

Which is also the reason why it pains me to see what is happening in all too many archdiocesan elementary schools in the county, especially the eastern end of the county.

Those schools mirror many of the towns where they are located. Enrollment, similar to population, is down. Costs remain the same or go up. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (by the way this might be a good spot to mention that all that love for language and writing was done at the expense of math and science) to figure out what happens next.

Parishes are being squeezed. They are looking to cut costs. The parish school is one possibility.

At St. Cyril’s of Alexandria in East Lansdowne, the school got national attention a few years back when one of its students, Tommy Geromichalos, penned a letter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Tommy, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, wanted his school to stay open so he could graduate. His appeal struck a note in the community, which rallied around his cause and raised the funds to keep St. Cyril’s afloat. Tommy will graduate in June. But whether St. Cyril’s will survive is once again in question.

The pastor has again recommended that the school be closed.

Not far away, in Milmont Park, families with kids attending Our Lady of Peace School are looking at a similar bleak picture. They want the school to stay open. They might have to fork over a big tuition hike to do it.

It’s not just the grade schools. Last week the archdiocese announced a tuition hike of $240 a year to attend one of their high schools.

Cardinal Justin Rigali also announced two new high schools will be built. They will service booming areas in once-rural Montgomery and Bucks counties. That’s where the population is moving. And that’s where the archdiocese is going, literally where their customers are.

Back here in eastern Delaware County, many families with kids in struggling parish schools can see the writing on the wall.

Or at least the Palmer Penmanship.

The nuns taught me well. Granted, math is not my strong suit. Words are. This newspaper wrote tons of them to describe what many described as the “miracle” at St. Cyril’s. And we also offered a sad farewell to St. Charles Borromeo, which closed its doors last June.

It looks like several more miracles are needed. Writing about them is a lot easier than getting them done.

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

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A face meant for radio

Had an opportunity make my radio debut Saturday.

Our lead sports columnist, Jack McCaffery, doubles as a weeekend host on sports talk radio WEPEN-950.

Jack asked me if I would come on and talk about the deal to funnel $47 million in state funding into the project to build a professional spors stadium in Chester. I agreed. There is just as much anonymity on radio as there is in the newspaper. And if you've seen this mug, you'll know it's a countenance that was made for the newspaper.

While I was on with Jack (longtime listener, first-time caller) I made the point that thew newspaper has been a big booster of this project on our editorial page, which makes us something of a minority in the media across the state.

If you haven't noticed, there is not a lot of fervor out there to continue pouring taxpayer monday into these kinds of stadium projects.

But the point I tried to make on the radio is that, if this were only a stadium being built, I would heartily agee. But the fact is it's not.

This is not just a $115 million stadium project. Yes, I realize this is not chump change. But that's only part of a bigger picture. The stadium is a crucial cog in a $400 million project that could turn the Chester waterfront, already home to one economic juggernaut in Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack, into a destination point that wold rival anything in Wilmington or Camden, let alone Philadelphia.

I know not everyone agrees. One of them would have been state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, who represents much of the city. When the plan was first floated, Kirkland made a good point. Why should the state dump money into a stadium for a city that does not have a major supermarket?

That has now been addressed. Part of the deal unfurled by Gov. Ed Rendell and state Sen. Dominic Pileggi on Thursday will include funds for a supermarket as well as putting money into the struggling Chester Upland School District. And that's something the deal that set up Harrah's did not do.

Now, we wait for word from Major League Soccer. It's believed Chester/Philadelphia and St. Louis are in competition for the 16th MLS franchise, which would likely being play in 2010.

One other point I made on the radio. I realize that this franchise is going to carry the Philadelphia moniker. But I would like to see Delaware County, and the team's home in Chester, be a part of the new franchise.

A month or so ago I mentioned in this space that the team could honor the proud legacy of two county icons, Sun Ship Building and Drydock Co, whose longtime home is just a stone's throw down the road where Harrhah's now sits, as well as another Delco institution, Sun Co.

My idea? The Chester Sun.

It as not terribly well received, being roundly harpooned when it got picked up on the forum hosted by the Sons of Ben, the 1,100-strong fanatics who have pushed the region for an MLS franchise.

Think you have a better idea? Offer a response on this blog.

As I told Jack, maybe the newspaper should sponsor a contest to name the team. Jack jokingly wondered if the newspaper was getting naming rights to the stadium.

Could it be a sign of the Times? Yeah, sure, right up there with me being on the radio.

A Super pick

I know, you've been dying because of the lack of picks during the playoffs.

With the Eagles long out of the running, I had shelved some of my fearless prognosticating. Well, it's uper Sunday, and I'm back.

Hey, my record is at least as good as Punxsutawney Phil's. Six more weeks of winter? Thanks for nothing, pal. No wonder he's being overahsdowed -- literaly -- by Gus, the state's second more famous groundhog.

At any rate, there is a game being played later today. Here's a tip. Don't blink, this one is going to be over quick.

The Patriots are on a mission that was set up earlier in the season when their gruff coach, Bill Belichick, deliberately set into motion the great 'Tape Gate' caper in which the team got caught videotaping the signals being used by the Jets.

Belichick, as surly an individual as you will meet, has turned it into an 'Us vs. The World' season for his team. And they've responded.

Now, our very own Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has stepped into the fray, pouring a little gasoline on the fire just as we head into Super Bowl weekend. Specter said he wants to question NFL brass about the decision to destroy the tapes of the incident.

Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but are things that slow in D.C.? Yo, Sen. Specter, let this one go. Don't you realize this is exactly what Belichick wants?

With the ultimate stage in sports, Belichick and the Patriots will deliver tonight. Unfortunately for the Giants, they will be road kill in this one.

Make it 37-16 Patriots.

But the big question is this, what will be higher, the number of Eli Manning interceptions or Bill Belichick smiles?

A party trifecta

Here's something to ponder while you are wiping the sauce off your chin later today as that most super of party days unfolds.

We're actualy hitting the party trifecta this weekend, something I'm not sure has ever lined up this way before.

Friday we witnessed, once again, that gastronomic wing-ding of eating excess known as Wing Bowl. In its 16-year run, this event dreamed up by WIP morning guys Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti has gone from the lobby of the Wyndham Franklin Plaza with a few eaters and a handful of fans, to 20,000 people packing the Wachovia Center.

It's a bunch of fat guys sucking down wings, while thousands of guys drink beer and ogle busty women who seem intent on displaying their wares, all the better to improve their chances of appearing on the jumbotron.

Is this a great country or what?

Today of course we imbibe in that most American of holidays, Super Sunday. At some point, amid the chips and salsa, wings, pizza, beer and soda, they might actually play a football game. After all, they need something to wrap around the day's real competition, the ads that run during the game.

Just two days later, Mardia Gras arrives, the annual bacchanal that ushers us into the season of Lent.

And what am I giving up for Lent this year? Yes, I will once ago forego all alcohol for 40 days. It gets a little harder to do each year. Being a newspaper editor doesn't help.

Neither do weekends like this one. Now, it's on to the wings.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 1

The Daily Numbers: 47 million dollars in state aid brought to Chester yesterday by Gov. Ed Rendell and state Sen. Dominic Pileggi. It will go toward construction of a soccer stadium that hopefully will lure an MLS team to play there.

18,500 seats in that stadium, which will be located just south of the Commodore Barry Bridge on the Delaware riverfront.

2,600 construction jobs that will be created by the stadium project.

800 permanent jobs in both the stadium and surrounding entertainment and retail complex.

414 million bucks, the cost of the entire development. Just a stunning day for the city of Chester.

5,000 dollar reward being offered for information concerning Delaware resident Thomas Booth. He has not been seen since leaving Bootlegger’s bar in Ridley early last Sunday morning.

11,000 dollar crime spree now being laid at the feet of a man who was busted for confronting a woman with a gun in the parking lot of Springfield Mall and trying to steal her car. He was unsuccessful.

150 calls logged by police in Newtown Township after word of a kiddie car break-in ring in the area. The 19-year-old teen and his 36-year-old bride are both facing trial after hearings.

17 threat charges filed against a fourth-grade teacher in Bucks County charged with terrorizing the elementary school where she taught with a series of threatening phone calls and actions.

18 people arrested after a huge brawl at Camden High School. One police officer was injured.

2 people dead after a they fired gunshots at each other on a West Philadelphia street just before noon yesterday.

2 million dollars being invested to improve the state’s nursing work force, including grants to both Villanova University and Delaware County Community College.

4,000 workers facing layoffs as wireless equipment maker Ericsson sets a huge downsizing.

81 alcohol-related crashes recorded by state police on Super Bowl Sunday last year. Do yourself a favor, use a designated driver if you’re going to be out.

750 couples who will gather in Pittsburgh on Feb. 10 to renew their wedding vows.

1 day until we get to see our old furry pal, Punxsutawney Phil, and whether he will see his shadow – and another six weeks of winter. Wing Bowl followed the next day by Groundhog Day. Talk about a double-header.

1 Delco native who will actually be playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. That would be Havertown’s own Kyle Eckel, pride of Episcopal Academy.

0 goals for the Flyers last night as they were dominated on their home ice by the Rangers, 4-0. Won’t win many games when you don’t light the lamp.

11 errors in 143 games last season for the Phils new third baseman Pedro Feliz. That compares to the 25 committed by the trifecta of players the team platooned at the hot corner last year.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
What do you think is bigger, Wing Bowl or the Super Bowl?

I Don’t Get It: How much hot air will emanate from Glendale, Az., Sunday before they actually kick off the game Sunday night. Start playing, already.


Today’s Upper: A no-brainer. What a day for Chester yesterday. Bring on the soccer fans.


Quote Box: “The Philadelphia market just took a big step forward and is now well-positioned to receive an MLS expansion team.”

-- Major League Soccer Commissioner Dan Garber, after yesterday’s announcement of a state aid package that will result in a stadium being built in Chester.

A miracle in Chester

Today we’re going to play a game of fill in the blanks. See if you can correctly complete the following sentence, uttered by Gov. Ed Rendell.

“I guarantee that (insert name of city here) will be one of the first-class cities in Pennsylvania.”

Anyone care to offer a guess?

Philadelphia? Harrisburg? Pittsburgh? Allentown? Erie? Scranton? Lancaster?
Would you believe none of the above?

Brace yourself. Rendell was indeed not talking about any of those burgs.
He was talking about Chester. In fact, he was standing in Chester when he uttered those words.

More than that, it wasn’t hype. It wasn’t just another campaign promise.
Rendell was putting his money where his mouth was. Literally.

The governor arrived on the Chester waterfront Thursday along with someone who knows the city – as well as its struggles and the push to reverse those fortunes – very well. Rendell joined Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, who was once mayor of the city, in announcing a $47 million state aid package that will seal the deal for construction of a 18,500-seat soccer stadium.

The hope is that the stadium will be the final cog in convincing Major League Soccer to award the region a professional soccer franchise. They would play their games in the spanking, new facility that will sit in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge along the Delaware River.

Now the developers await word from Major League Soccer. Chester is believed to now have the edge in competition for the league’s 16th franchise in a neck-and-neck battle with St. Louis.

News of the stadium financing is simply the latest benchmark in the impressive turnaround in the city, especially along the waterfront. In fact yesterday’s press conference was held at the Wharf at Rivertown, a business complex that kicked off the renaissance. Now that boom is moving into other areas of the city.

In fact, it could be argued that while yesterday’s stadium news was impressive, it pales next to everything else the aid package will create for the city.

Try rolling these around on your tongue:
* A 200,000-square-foot exposition center;
* 2 office buildings, with 335,000 square feet of space;
* 25 apartment units
* 186 townhouse units
* A courtyard
* A riverwalk and boat slips.

The stadium will be the centerpiece in a $400 million development plan that is the vision of developers the Buccini/Pollin Group for the waterfront.

But it’s not just along the Delaware. And it’s not just high-rollers and outsiders who will benefit. There will be thousands of jobs, first with construction and then permanent positions at the stadium and shops.

Rendell claimed there would be 2,600 construction jobs, 800 permanent jobs and $19 million in annual tax revenue. At that rate the public would get its money back in a few years.

The development also would remedy one of the city’s great shames, that its residents do not have a major supermarket within its borders. The developers also are looking to align the team with the struggling Chester Upland School District, targeting a portion of ticket sales to the schools.

Mayor Wendell Butler could only dream of such developments a few years back.
“This is utterly amazing,” Butler said yesterday.

James Nevels, head of the Swarthmore Group and the former head of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, is one of the partners in the venture.

He had another word for what happened yesterday.

“It’s a miracle day,” Nevels said.

A miracle in Chester. How cool is that?