Sunday, July 27, 2008

LIfe's a beach

The Heron's Nest is about to make like his fine, feathered friends.

In other words, I'm heading to the beach.

I will faithfully report on my latest beach wanderings next week, including my search for the secret to the "zing" that makes a slice of Grotto Pizza on the boardwalk one of the highlights of every summer.

If by any chance you happen to recognize me in the sand, please say hello. I'll be the guy with the T-shirt and hat on, with a towel likely covering his legs. Doctor's orders, you know.

If you should be so braves as to ask, "Hey, aren't you the editor of the Daily Times?" don't be surprised if you get my standard response:

"That depends on who wants to know."

See you in a week.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 25

The Daily Numbers: 8 and 10, the ages of the children police allege a state trooper believed he was meeting for sex. Instead he was the latest charged in an Internet sex sting.

1 person shot at a house on Roof Road in Brookhaven this morning.

1 person found dead this morning after a fire in a home in New Britain, Bucks County.

10 acres in Upper Darby’s Kent Park. The spot under the Lindbergh Bridge is now the county’s first dedicated dog park.

20 dollar registration fee per household for you and Fido to get access to the park.

4 and a half to 9 years in the slammer for a Phoenixville man convicted in the stabbing of a Cabrini College student.

1 person killed in the latest fatal accident on Route 322, once again affirming its moniker, the “Killer Conchester.”

15 and 12 months in jail respectively for James Battista and Thomas Martino, two old high school buddies of disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy, for their role in the betting ring that shook the league.

3 people arrested in what police are describing as a prostitution operation that was being run out of a spa in Berwyn on the Main Line.

2 dollar hike in parking fees being proposed for short-term parking at Philadelphia International Airport.

4 people recovering after lightning strikes during Wednesday night’s wild storms, including a Bethel Township police officer and volunteer firefighter.

1,100 dollar bonus for Philadelphia’s white-collar workers under a one-year extension on their contract. They will not get a pay raise.

2.6 million dollars in heroin seized by Philadelphia police responding to a burglary in the Frankford section.

2 cent dip in gas prices in the Philadelphia region. Average price is now $4.07 a gallon.

40 minutes late for the game yesterday for Jimmy Rollins, which earned him a seat on the bench.

1 run surrendered by 45-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer. It wasn’t good enough as the Phils fell, 3-1.

0 for 13, what Chase Utley went for the series at Shea. That’s what you call a slump.

7 hits for the anemic Phils’ attack against the Mets yesterday.

3 games against the Braves starting tonight back in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park.

1 Eagle missing as the deadline arrived for vets to arrive at camp at Lehigh. No, not Brian Westbrook, or Lito Sheppard for that matter. Shawn Andrews is attending to personal business.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So how do fans react when Jimmy Rollins is announced in the bottom of the first tonight at Citizens Bank Park? It’s going to be a lovely night for a ballgame. Maybe Rollins will provide some fireworks.

I Don’t Get It: When are people going to catch on to the fact that you really don’t know who is on the other end of those Internet chat lines. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Don’t look now but gas prices are headed down. I’m seeing several locations now under $4 a gallon.


Quote Box: “It is certainly a sad day for the Pennsylvania State Police.”

-- Maj. Tedescung Bandy, announcing sex charges against a fellow state trooper.

A state trooper gets stung

It’s happened again. And once again I find myself dumbfounded.

Now I know a lot of readers will not be all that surprised by that. They consider me somewhat befuddled most of the time.

But I will repeat, exactly when are people going to realize that you have no idea who the person you are “chatting” with online really is?

Some caveats here. This comes from someone who has never been on an Internet chat room. I have no page on Facebook. MySpace is a mystery to me.

I spend an inordinate amount of time every day planted in front of a computer, much of it online, yet much of this brave new cyber-world remains a mystery to me.

I’m not at all sure that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Of all people, you would think that one person who would understand exactly these new-fangled rules of the Internet would be a state trooper.

You would think that Cpl. Albert Silveri would be well aware of the work being done online by the county Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

You want the hair on your neck to stand on end? Talk to some of these undercover agents about their work, about what is going on in this cyber-world, and about how fast they hook up after they log on. It’s almost always the same, men looking for sexual relationships with kids.

District Attorney G. Michael Green, with a couple of state troopers at his side yesterday, announced the latest person stung by the undercover officers.

This one was a stunner. Silveri was a veteran trooper, assigned to the Belmont Barracks. He lives in Aston.

The trooper is charged with trying to set up a liaison with who he believed to be a mother and her two young children, ages 8 and 10.

Green said he went by the online handle of “StrongWilled07.”

“It is certainly a sad day for the Pennsylvania State Police,” said Maj. Tedescung Bandy, who was at the press conference with Green.

And a frightening one for the rest of us, especially for parents.

One more time. You don’t know who is on the other end of that “chat” line. Maybe it’s a mom looking to peddle her kids. Or maybe it’s an undercover officer.

The fact is you just don’t know. That apparently is not enough to stop those trolling the cyber-world from rolling the dice.

That’s what Silveri, a respected state trooper, did on more than one occasion.

He learned, as have many others, that while this Internet world has its thrills, reality bytes.

On Tuesday, Silveri was in Lima District Court as part of his duties as an accident investigator.

On Thursday he was in Aston District Court being arraigned on sex charges, the latest crash on the information superhighway.

I hope at some point someone can explain to me why, what it is that these people don’t get.

Jimmy not on a roll

Let’s make this clear: Jimmy Rollins is wrong.

Rollins is the reigning National League MVP and the supposed leader of the Phillies.

But the leader of the Phillies had a seat on the bench while his punchless teammates lost a crucial Game 3 of their series with the Mets at Shea Stadium yesterday afternoon. In the process they tumbled out of first place for the first time since June 1.

Rollins was benched by Manager Charlie Manuel because he was late arriving at the stadium for the early 12:10 start. That in itself apparently is not news to the Phillies. Rollins has a reputation as being the last guy to arrive at the ballpark, in particular for home games.

He was not on the team bus that transported the Phillies from their hotel to Shea yesterday. He was driving his own car. Why is not exactly clear. What is abundantly obvious is that he did not get to the park when he was supposed to, and Manuel apparently had seen enough.

Perhaps just as telling as the team “leader” who decides he does not need to ride the bus with his mates is the way Rollins reacted.

This of course is not his first trip to the pine courtesy of his manager. Rollins was pulled from a game on June 5 after he failed to run out a pop-up.

That time he sheepishly agreed with the manager’s move to banish him to the bench. Rollins made it clear it was his fault, that Manuel has two rules, to be on time and to hustle.

In that instance, he ignored the hustle part. This time around, it was the on-time factor that he failed.

Rollins was 40 minutes later getting to the park.

But he made it clear this time around he did not agree with the benching.

Rollins, the reigning NL MVP, is not exactly having an MVP season. His production is down in almost every category. The Phillies have consistently struggled to score runs. Part of that has been the vacuum at the top of the lineup. That’s his territory.

Rollins fancies himself a team leader. Last year he boasted that the Phils were the team to beat, and in the process painted a bull’s eye on his back, especially in New York. But Rollins delivered, carrying the Phils to an NL East title.

He was chirping again this year, saying he believed the Phils capable of winning 100 games.

But his play on the field this year has not backed up those words. And his off-field actions are threatening to shred team unity and pose a challenge to Manuel.

Rollins wants to be considered a leader. This year it’s time he started acting like one.

All's well with the Birds, sort of

Take a deep breath, all you green-faced zealots. As opposed to your Phillies, all is well with your Eagles.

Brian Westbrook reported to camp on time last night. The star running back who would like to be paid more like a star running back arrived and addressed his contract situation.

He has a new agent, and hopefully he soon will have a new contract with a whole lot of zeroes on the end of it. The only real question now is just how much money he can pry out of the Eagles’ wallet.

Westbrook clearly is no fool. With little in the way of leverage, other than the psyche of the team and the way it treats its star player, the running back saw nothing to be gained by holding out, which would have cost him $15,000 for every day he missed.

Also showing up on time last night was disgruntled cornerback Lito Sheppard. He wanted a new deal, unhappy with the one that will pay him $2 million in base pay this year. Instead he apparently lost his starting job when the Eagles threw a ton of money at free agent Asante Samuel of the Patriots.

But the big news on reporting day for veterans at Lehigh was supplied not by either Westbrook or Sheppard, but rather by the fairly large absence of giant offensive lineman Shawn Andrews.

He was a no-show, but he claims it’s not because he doesn’t like his contract either. Instead he informed the team he had some personal business he had to attend to, something I suppose that could not be handled last week or last month.

He is likely to report sometime next week.

In the meantime, all’s well with the Birds. Or as well as it can be until they put on the pads today. Then there will be the injuries, who stands out and who does not.

Just another summer at Lehigh.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 24

The Daily Numbers: 201 headstones toppled by mindless vandals who rampaged through historic Eden Cemetery in Collingdale.

2 people believed injured when lightning struck the Bethel Fire House during last night’s storm.

2 people also seriously injured when they were struck by lightning as they huddled under a tree near a swim club in Bucks County late yesterday afternoon.

35,000 residences without power at the height of last night’s powerful storm. This morning PECO has whittled the number down to 5,000.

2 high schools pals of disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy who will be sentenced for their roles in a betting ring today in New York.

3 principals removed from their posts at some of the poorest performing schools in Chester Upland by CEO Gregory Thornton.

40 propane tanks stolen from a business on Route 130 in Willingboro, N.J.

1 new millionaire in New Jersey, where a single winning ticket was sold for the Mega Millions lottery jackpot that was sitting at a cool $126 million.

50 more people who lined up last night in South Philly to berate DRPA for their plan to hike tolls on area bridges.

2 counties in suburban Philadelphia that have made the Forbes magazine list of best places to raise a family. Delco did not make the list, while Chester and Montgomery counties did.

29 inch-long alligator recovered by authorities in Bucks County from a pond in Northampton.

2 to a car, what Philadelphia police officers are now doing after the latest in a series of outages involving their emergency radio system.

4 day work week for the state court system? The move is being opposed by Chief Justice Ron Castille.

652 million dollars being paid by Nasdaq OMX Group to purchase the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.

4 straight walks from Brett Myers to open the game against the Mets last night. It put the Phils in a 2-0 hole.

46 of the 95 pitches thrown by Myers in his 5 innings of work out of the strike zone.

1 three-run blast surrendered by reliever Ryan Madson that was the difference in a 6-3 Mets win.

2 key veterans who will be the focus of all eyes at Eagles Training Camp today. Disgruntled stars Lito Sheppard and Brian Westbrook are due in camp.

54 and 47, the identical records of both the Mets and Phillies as they go into the final game of their series this afternoon. Something has to give.

12:10 starting time for this afternoon’s special at Shea.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Phillies are not going to repeat as NL East champs without getting a whole lot more from Brett Myers than we saw last night. Or maybe it’s time to offer that spot to J.A. Happ.

I Don’t Get It: Vandalism is one thing. Vandalizing a cemetery is another altogether. Let’s hope police soon corral the “punk kids” they believe are responsible for knocking over 200 headstones in historic Eden Cemetery in Collingdale.


Today’s Upper: Yes, it’s summer. That means heat. And humidity. And thunderstorms to break it up. Here’s a tip. It will be light today. It likely will warm up as well as the day goes on, followed by some darkness tonight.


Quote Box: “This is a shame.”

-- Jeff Griffith, of Griffith Memorial and Bronze Co, after observing the damage done by vandals in Eden Cemetery.

An egregious act

There is mindless vandalism, then there is the sort that appears on the front page of today’s paper.

One is usually just mindless kid’s play, the result of young people with too much time on their hands and not enough things to keep them busy.

The other, what staff writer Rose Quinn describes here, is another matter altogether.

Usually when we offere accounts of vandalism, it amounts to damage to a car, or a home or business that was targeted. A lot of times spray-paint is involved. I’ve often thought the “tags” you often see so prominently displayed on everything from bridges to buildings is some kind of a way of seeking notoriety, or maybe immortality. You see the “tag” and you know that someone has been there.

But what happened in Eden Cemetery in Collingdale is more disturbing. What was damaged there wasn’t a car, or a piece of property. And it can’t be fixed as easily.

Someone marauded through the historic cemetery and toppled 201 headstones.

This isn’t like taking a spray can to a car. This is someone’s final resting spot. And where loved ones come to pay their final respects.

To intentionally disturb that relationship, to damage that hallowed ground, is beyond thinking. These kids trampled all over this beloved turf.

Of course, that’s exactly it. The person who did this wasn’t thinking. Not of the damage they were committing, nor the loving relationships they were violating.

Police believe this is the work of “punk kids.”

Technically, they may be kids. But this kind of vandalism isn’t kid stuff.

I hope they learn that when they are brought to justice.

How a heat wave ends

There are a couple of things about summer that you can count on.

It’s going to be hot. That might come as news to our friends in TV. We kind of think it’s standard procedure. In other words, we don’t stop the presses every time we get a dose of high humidity.

You also can pretty much count on a heat wave a couple times every summer. The temperature will reach 90 degrees. Again, that doesn’t exactly register on our Richter scale. Hit 90 degrees three days in a row and we refer to that as a heat wave, though it should not comes as much of a surprise when that happens in July.

And one final thing. You can be pretty much assured how a heat wave is going to end. Yep, the skies are going to open up and Mother Nature is going to vent all that built-up heat and humidity in a wild display that can rival most Fourth of July celebrations.

Pretty much right on schedule, storms rolled across the region last night, with monsoon-like rain, high winds, and spectacular lightning displays.

As beautiful as it is, lightning is nothing to be trifled with. It is best viewed from a distance.

No one really wants an up-close and personal experience. But that’s apparently what a police officer in Bethel got, when he may have been struck by lightning when a bolt rocked the fire house last night.

The officer and volunteer firefighter were transported to Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Thankfully, both are going to be all right.

Things were more serious in Bucks County, where a woman and small child were struck as they huddled under a tree at a local swim club.

Both are listed in serious condition.

Phils mired in Myers

There was no miracle for the Phillies last night.

There was only Brett Myers. And we’ve seen this act before.

Myers was less than scintillating in his return from a stint in the minor leagues in an attempt to put his game back together.

It did not take Myers long to take the glow off the Phils’ miracle win Tuesday night, when they scored six runs in the ninth to bet their New York rivals.

Myers went to the mound looking to find the swagger that once made him a dominating starter. He’s still looking. He apparently hasn’t found his control either.

Myers walked the first four batters he faced, giving the Mets a 2-0 head start. On the night he only gave up three hits.

He lasted just five innings, surrendering five walks in total and also hitting one batter. He left with the game tied, 3-3, so he didn’t factor in the decision. At least that’s what the boxscore says.

Fans know differently. They were looking for a sign that Myers was back. What they got instead was an ominous sign that this season, once so full of promise, is now full of questions. Myers may be the biggest riddle of them all.

How long do the Phils keep sending him out to the mound in hopes he finds his game?

Today they will send crafty veteran Jamie Moyer to the hill in the series finale. Maybe Myers should take notes.

They are once again dead even with the Mets. The winner of today’s 12:10 start will exit the series with a one-game lead.

Phillies’ management will leave New York with much the same question they had going in. What happened to Brett Myers?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 23

The Daily Numbers: 13 people arrested Tuesday in an illegal gambling operation dubbed by the cops “Operation Delco Nostra.”

22,000 dollars in bets, that police say the ring took in during just one week in 2004.

4 Augustinian priests and 1 brother currently installed at Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill. Yesterday the order announced it would withdraw the priests from the school because of their dwindling ranks.

30 to 60 years in slammer for man convicted of shooting a Glenolden police officer during a domestic disturbance.

2,000 dollars in restitution to be paid by a Marple teen to fix graffiti on buildings along West Chester Pike.

81 to 32, the vote by which unionized Children and Youth Services workers approved their new contract yesterday.

2 men busted in connection with a huge pot seizure in Folcroft. Officers last week seized 221 pounds of pot in bales with a street value of $440,000.

500,000 dollars delivered to Upper Darby yesterday by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak for the revitalization of Market Street.

500,000 dollars being donated to Delaware County Community College by Sunoco Foundation to help pay for a new science and technology building.

10 people who suffered minor injuries when three trolleys collided in Center City yesterday afternoon.

2 deaths now being attributed to the recent 7-day heat wave in the region.

2 years in a special drug treatment program for Garrett Reid, son of Eagles head coach Andy Reid. If he leaves the program or does not complete it, the younger Reid will face some serious jail time.

4 years probation and the loss of her driver’s license for a Wayne woman who copped a plea on charges she was under the influence when she drove erratically in a construction zone on the Schuylkill Expressway and slammed into a police cruiser.

40 minutes last night when the problem-plagued Philadelphia police radio system was down again.

44 age of Kennett Square man who was killed as he floated down the Brandywine in a kayak in Wilmington when a large tree fell on him.

10 million dollars given by the DRPA to the Chester soccer stadium proposal, a point not missed by those at a public hearing last night who blasted the agency for a new rate hike request.

38 age of woman in Bucks County who was held for trial yesterday on charges she had sex with two teen boys during a booze-fueled sleepover at a friend’s house.

3.089 billion dollars in lottery sales reported by the state last year. That’s an increase of $13 million from the previous year.

5 out of 40, where Philadelphia ranks in terms of its walkability, according to the Web site We’re behind only San Francisco, New York Boston and Washington.

8.86 billion dollars lost last quarter by banking giant Wachovia Corp. They also announced they are cutting 6,350 jobs.

1 cent hike in the price of gasoline in the Philly region. Average price now stands at $4.09.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Mark down last night’s date. July 22. If the Phils defend their NL East title, last night’s dramatic come-from-behind win over the Mets is a big reason why.

I Don’t Get It: Remember that case of the millions in legislative bonuses doled out for staffers doing political work in Harrisburg? It’s likely they will not be asked to pay any of the money back. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Here’s an idea that might hold some merit. If we can use GPS systems to be sure we don’t get lost, why not use the technology to protect our kids as well. The state attorney general yesterday indicated he wanted to use GPS system to track the locations of some convicted sex offenders.


Quote Box: “I just hope this isn’t the start of the decline of Monsignor Bonner High School.”

-- Art Hunter, Class of 1968 and former Bonner hoops coach, on news that the Augistinian fathers will remove the few remaining priests from the school.

A losing bet

Is it me or is the state taking an increasingly dim view of illegal gambling?

In recent weeks the state Gaming Control Board awarded grants to local municipalities to crack down on illegal slot machines. Delaware County got a chunk of money.

Then last week, a phalanx of state police and agents from the state Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement descended on a Ridley Township tavern, seizing a video poker machine, a video slot machine, some gambling paraphernalia and $15,000 in cash.

Tuesday the state upped the ante, in a manner of speaking. Police announced the results of a six-year probe into a huge illegal gambling ooperation in the county with the arrest of 17 people in an operation they dubbed “Operation Delco Nostra.”

The ring specialized in those long traditions of organized crime, bookmaking, illegal gambling and loan-sharking.

The operation had ties to organized crime figures in Philadelphia, and was taking in as much as a million dollars a month. Authorities said that in one week the operation, allegedly directed by Nicholas “Nicky the Hat” Cimino of Wallingford, took in more than $200,000 in wagers.

Police say Cimino ran what amounted to a casino out of a non-descript building on MacDade Boulevard.

You can read all the details here.

In a way, the state is merely protecting its investment. In case you missed it, the state is now in the gambling business. We’re not talking about the lottery.

We’re talking about those glittering casinos – and the their thousands of legal slot machines -- that take in millions every week. One of them is located not far away from the dingy building on MacDade that police say was the hub of this illegal operation.

What’s it mean? The state is getting serious about illegal gambling. For years a lot of people looked the other way at the pervasive illegal slots that operated in taverns and other social clubs across the county.

Apparently, not anymore. That’s now competition. The state wants you to drop that money at Harrah’s, not your local tavern.

Besides, it’s legal at Harrah’s. It’s not at the neighborhood tap. And 17 people learned that the hard way this week.

What the state is saying is that it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to illegal gambling. Roll the dice on this one and it’s increasingly likely you’ll come out a loser.

Shea it's 'So,' Phillies fans

The Phillies were dead in the water.

They were looking up at the Mets, having gone for the most part meekly for eight innings against ace lefty Johan Santana.

They were about to kiss their long stay in first place in the National League East goodbye.

They were a team with no pulse, about to have the sheet pulled up over them, a stinging loss in the first of a crucial three-game series at Shea Stadium.

Then something magical happened. Mets Manager Jerry Manuel took out the paddles, placed them on the Phillies’ chests, and jolted them back to life.

In so doing, he may have altered the course of the season. Instead of holding a one-game lead over the Phils, his team suffered an unimaginable collapse, one that surely will hang over the team as they strive mightily to put last year’s epic el foldo as the Phils slipped past them on the last day of the season behind them.

The Mets came into the series with momentum on their side, and were looking to deliver a kill shot on the listless Phillies.

The New Yorkers went into the ninth inning with everything going for them, not the least of which was a 5-2 lead.

What they did not take into the ninth was Santana. He was lifted after dazzling the Phils for eight innings, limiting them to two runs on eight hits.

The Mets did not have closer Billy Wagner available. He was suffering back spasms. Still Jerry Manuel elected to go to his bullpen instead of letting Santana try to get those final three outs.

The Phillies promptly scored six runs. “So” unusual was the Phils’ rally that the forgotten man on the roster, So Taguchi, delivered the key hit, a double over the head of Mets’ right-fielder Endy Chavez.

It’s the kind of win that can define a season. And as the Mets know all too well, it’s the kind of loss that also can define a season.

The Mets thought they had put this Phillies hex business behind them. They thought wrong.

A month’s worth of work went up in smoke in a disastrous ninth inning.

If the Phils successfully defend their NL East title, last night will be a big reason why.

And in New York, they will likely grumble for days about the decision not to send their multi-million dollar ace Santana back out for the ninth.

Mets’ fans this morning are lamenting, “Shea it ain’t so.”

It’s “so” all right. It’s So Taguci. And a miracle win for the Phils.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 22

The Daily Numbers: 537 times in 146 days, how many times the feds allege TV anchorman Larry Mendte hacked into Alycia Lane’s e-mail account.

1 felony count of accessing e-mail without authorization lodged against Mendte.

2 days, how long a man police say was trying to break into a business in Chester Township hung in the window after he slipped and broke his neck. The man suffered fatal injuries.

130 union members who staff the county’s Children and Youth Services who will vote on a new contract offer from the county. The two sides are trying to avoid a walkout.

6 straight days in which the temperature has hit 90 degrees. We should make it a week with No. 7 today.

1 dollar increase being proposed for tolls on the Delaware River bridges, including the Commodore Barry. The first of 2 public hearings on the rate hikes, which would see the toll go to $4 bucks in September and eventually to $5 in 2010, is tonight.

550,000 dollar fine lodged against CBS in the now infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” from the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that was tossed out yesterday.

8 trolley passengers sickened when smoke filled several cars during a fire in a tunnel in West Philly yesterday.

1,251 people who have been sickened in the latest tainted food salmonella outbreak. Fed probers now believe it is linked to a specific jalapeno pepper.

1 teen being charged in the fatal shooting of an African immigrant during a robbery of his store in Philly last week.

50 shots fired between police and a suspect during a confrontation with a murder suspect in Philadelphia yesterday. The suspect was wounded; no police were injured.

1 bullet that struck a young mother in the head when she was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle in Wilmington, Del., yesterday. She died of her injuries.

4 gunshots suffered by a man who was reffing a basketball game on the courts at 33rd and Diamond in Philadelphia yesterday. He was treated at a local hospital.

61 percent increase in number of calls from people who have run out of gas being reported by the Allstate Motor Club.

4 cent dip in price of gas over weekend. Average price of regular in Philly region is now $4.10.

10 minutes, about what it took the Eagles to sell 12,000 standing-room-only tickets to this year’s regular season games.

3 games between the Phillies and Mets, starting tonight at Shea Stadium. The teams are dead even atop the NL East.

4.96 ERA of new Phillies starter Joe Blanton, who takes the mound for the first time tonight in the series opener.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Football season can wait. Call me if there’s a serious injury at Eagles camp. Or if Brian Westbrook decides to hold out. Right now this is a baseball town. Bring on the Mets.
I Don’t Get It: Larry Mendte. All together now. What was he thinking about?

Today’s Upper: Don’t like the idea of paying higher tolls to use the Commodore Barry Bridge? You can tell the DRPA what you think about it at two public hearings on the rate hike request, tonight at the Rutgers-Camden campus and tomorrow night at the Philly Cruise Terminal, 5100 S. Broad St.

Quote Box: “The mere accessing and reading of privileged information is criminal. This case, however, went well beyond just reading someone’s e-mail.”

-- Acting U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid, in announcing charges against TV news anchor Larry Mendte.

Dropping anchor

By now you may have heard about Larry Mendte. He is, or was, after all, a TV news anchor. In Philadelphia, that makes him a superstar.

We have a tendency to glorify the people who bring us the news via the tube every day. I can assure you the same does not hold true for newspaper editors. There are days when I’m glad about that. There is a comfort in the anonymity that comes, for the most part, with this job.

I actually did have a recent brush with TV, appearing on a statewide cable show on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. It was not a horrible experience. At least until I started hearing from people who had seen it. They all wanted to know if I was feeling OK. Then I saw the show myself. It looked like I was having a heart attack. I had a ghost-like appearance. Or, as I believe I correctly summed it up, I looked approximately like “death eating a cracker.”

I’ll confine my commentaries to the newspaper, thank you. No, our salaries do not approach the stratospheric heights of those of Larry Mendte or Alycia Lane. No one ever went into the newspaper business to get rich. A lot of us did not get into this racket to be glorified gossip columnists either. But we try to deliver what the public wants. Or maybe it’s what they crave.

And right now they crave every bit of information they can get about Larry Mendte and Alycia Lane.

Me? I have just one question. What the hell was Mendte thinking about? Here’s a guy who was respected in the community, basically the face of his station’s news-gathering operation. For that he was paid handsomely. Apparently, not quite handsomely enough.

It appears Mendte developed something of an obsession about his co-anchor, the exotic Lane. Maybe it was the fact that she made more money than he did. Or that people were starting to whisper that the station’s rise in the ratings was more the result of her photogenic presence, than his solid anchorman aura.

Whatever it was, Mendte apparently went haywire.

Yesterday he was charged with a single felony for accessing Lane’s e-mail accounts. It doesn’t sound like that big a deal, until you read the case the feds built against him.

That one charge of accessing e-mail without authorization stems from Mendte’s tapping into Lane’s private e-mail accounts.

This is where it gets a bit mind-boggling. According to the feds, Mendte did not do this on a rare occasion. He did it repeatedly. Not a dozen times. Hot a hundred times. But hundreds of times. From the office. From his home. From his vacation home.

The feds say Mendte hacked into Lane’s account no less than 537 times in 146 days. Then they believe he leaked that information to a newspaper reporter.

Why? Maybe to make her look bad and bump up his own stature at the station. Lane had issues of her own. She had a well-publicized dust-up with police in New York City. It was the latest in a string of incidents that put her on the front page of the tabloids. It also cost her the seat next to Mendte’s.

Now Mendte also has been booted from his anchor post.

Our front page today screams, “Anchors Away.”

I really only have one question, the same one I’ve been asking since this Mendte angle to the story first surfaced.

What the hell was he thinking?

And one other thing, one that I take some small comfort in when my often comatose head hits the pillow at night.

There really is something to be said for a boring life.

A tough lesson from the crime-fighting handbook

There is a saying that crime doesn’t pay.

But that doesn’t mean you have to pay for it with your life.

That’s apparently what happened to a Phoenixville man who police believe tried to break into a Chester Township business over the weekend.

You can read about it here. He didn’t make it.

Charles Ancrum apparently got stuck in the window. Police theorize he was standing on a work horse to gain access to the window when he slipped. He suffered a broken neck.

Worse, he hung there until someone discovered his body Monday morning.

The Week from Hell

Remember yesterday when I admitted I like this kind of weather? The hotter, the more humid, the better I like it.

Like living in a sponge? Count me in. I know it’s summer when I can get up in the morning, throw on a pair of shorts and T-shirt, and head out to grab the paper and still be perfectly comfortable.

I think part of me simply longs for the days of my youth. When I was growing up, our house did not have air-conditioning. Our bedrooms were on the second floor. Yes, it used to be stifling. But we never really thought of it. If it got too hot, we simply slept on the floor downstairs or on the porch.

The truth is, I don’t like air-conditioning. I never use it when I’m in the car. When I’m alone, that is. My family is not nearly enamored of this kind of weather as I am. I think it’s because they simply grew up with air-conditioning.

I don’t like it at home. I don’t like it in the office. I am usually the one complaining about how cold it is in the newsroom, and secretly flipping off the A.C. when I get the chance.

So today we will hit Day 7 of our current heat wave. Some might call it the Week from Hell. Literally.

Not me. I’ll simply refer to it as 7th Heaven. Or maybe the heat and humidity have finally fried my brain.

It's still baseball season

Remember the days when the baseball season would have ended yesterday?

For too many summers, the Phils would be mired with a losing record, hopelessly out of the race.

Salvation was a shimmering mirage off in the distance of another red-hot summer. In other words, the first day of Eagles training camp.

Yes, the Birds are back at Lehigh University in Allentown. Veterans and rookies reported Monday. Andy Reid, resplendent in his finest Hawaiian shirt, addressed the media late yesterday afternoon. The rest of the team’s veterans are expected to show up Thursday.

But this isn’t most summers. Tonight the Phillies open a dramatic three-game set at Shea Stadium in New York against the hated Mets. The teams are dead even, tied atop the National League East.

The Phils send newly acquired starter Joe Blanton to the mound tonight. He gets the pleasure of going mano a mano with Mets’ ace Johan Santana. There’s more drama tomorrow night when Brett Myers returns to the Phils’ starting rotation after a stint in the minors in an attempt to get his troubled season back on track.

For now, the Eagles are not the big sports story in town. At least until Thursday. That’s when Brian Westbrook either will or will not show up for camp. Westbrook, the motor that makes the Eagles’ offense go, is unhappy with his deal with the Birds. He wants more money. He’s probably worth every penny of it. Right now it’s simply a matter of how much the Eagles will fork over.

We’ll deal with that Thursday. For now, bring on the Mets.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 21

The Daily Numbers: 7 shootings, 9 people wounded and 1 dead. That’s the weekend toll on the streets of Philadelphia.

14 times, what one person was shot as he sat in a parked car in the city’s Parkside neighborhood. He died of his injuries.

1 person stabbed to death after a domestic argument in Upper Darby.

6 straight days with temperatures in the 90s in our current heat wave. We are expected to make it 7 in a row on Tuesday. Maybe it’s the heat that’s causing so much violence.

2 teens injured when their jet skis collided in the water near Cap May, N.J..

12 foot-high bronze statue of a race horse that was stolen from the entrance to the former Garden State Park. It was recovered by police.

3 Mongtomery County towns where residents are being asked to boil their water before use. They are Norristown, East Norriton and Plymouth Township.

100 years of law enforcement being celebrated by the FBI. The Philly office is holding public tours of their HQ at the federal building at 600 Arch Street Tuesday.

17 age of male teen who drowned in a lake off the Delaware River in Carneys Point, N.J.

15 dollar dip in the price of a barrel of crude oil. It’s now below $130 a barrel after starting the week at $145 a barrel.

4.11 a gallon for regular, that’s the average price in the Philly region. I actually saw some stations over the weekend where prices have dipped under the $4 mark.

53 wins and 46 losses for both the Phillies and Mets. They’re dead even atop the NL East. They play 3 games starting Tuesday night in New York.

2 runs and 4 hits given up by Cole Hamels yesterday against the Marlins. Wasn’t enough as the anemic Phils fell in 11 innings.

1 as in Day 1 for Eagles training camp, with rookies and some invited veterans reporting to Lehigh.

4 year deal for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who signed with the Eagles Sunday.

1 player still not under contract as camp begins. That would be top pick defensive lineman Trevor Laws.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The fightin’ Phils are looking to be just that. This team can go one of two ways at this point. They can either come completely unglued or rally to defend their NL East title.
I Don’t Get It: It’s the middle of July. And we’re having temperatures in the 90s. That does not strike me as news, despite what they say on TV.

Today’s Upper: You can almost understand what drove a group of family members to seek their own kind of justice against the man charged with the murder of their loved one. Almost. Not doing so is what separates us from the Wild, Wild, West.

Quote Box: “There’s no doubt in my mind that the crowd of family, friends, probably would have killed this guy.”

-- Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood, talking about an instance when family members pummeled a man suspected of killing their loved one.

A little street justice in Upper Darby

Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood has a reputation as being a no-nonsense kind of guy. He speaks in fairly plain terms about some of the people he encounters in his line of work.

But Saturday night Chitwood and his officers were beaten to the punch. Literally.

Police were investigating a fatal stabbing that occurred on Atlantic Avenue in the township’s Stonehurst section.

A barbecue Saturday night turned tragic. Police say a 44-year-old man plunged a knife into his girlfriend during an argument.

But the woman’s family apparently got to the guy before authorities did.

A female officer who was guarding the crime scene observed several people getting into a car at about 4 a.m. She followed them to a service station at 69th Street and Marshall Road. That’s where they caught up with the man who police believe stabbed their loved one.

Police say the group set upon Keith “Butch” Thomas, 44, and were in the process of doling out some “street justice,” pummeling and kicking the suspect.

Officers managed to break it up, but not before the family of victim Diane Barrow got their pound of flesh. Chitwood believes the situation likely would have been even more severe if officers had not intervened. Two officers suffered injuries during the melee.

No charges have been filed against any of the family members. Thomas is charged with murder, aggravated assault and weapons offenses.

It's not the heat, or the humidity

OK, call me crazy if you want. I like this weather.

No, my brain is not fried. I have not been sitting out in the sun too long. I have, however, been enjoying these steamy temperatures, safely ensconced on my screened-in porch.

Granted, I don’t exactly do a lot, other than sit and read. By the way, am I the only one who finds it increasingly difficult to read for any length of time without nodding off? It now takes me forever to read a book. For the most part my book reading is limited to weekends. I set up shop on the screened-in porch, fire up the iPod (actually it’s my wife’s; she got me a docking station to play it for Father’s Day), and I usually polish off a few pages before the eyes start to go south. The next thing I know someone is dashing out of the air-conditioned confines of the house to see if I have lapsed into a coma in the heat.

This weekend I also managed to catch all three Phils’ games on the radio on the porch. Not that it wasn’t painful. Not the temperature, the way the Phils are playing.

My wife and I are walkers and we try to knock that out fairly early in the morning. But I have to admit that at the height of yesterday’s heat, I grabbed a golf club, headed for the local park, and worked on my chipping and pitching. Hey, I never actually get to play golf, so why not pretend that I do.

Besides, I had just witnessed a guy who’s a year older than I am suffer still one more incredible collapse on a golf course. Of course, Greg Norman wasn’t exactly hacking it around some muni.

Norman started the day as the leader of the British Open at Royal Birkdale. One of the things I love about this tournament is that because of the time change, most of the action airs live here during the morning hours. You can catch the tournament and still have most of the day in front of you.

When Norman strode to the first tee, anyone familiar with his career kind of feared what would happen next. I was pulling for him, but you sort of knew this was going to be a train wreck. Norman, who has won two Open championships, did not disappoint. After being the unlikely leader at 53 years of age, Norman looked every day of it Sunday.

He’s been there before. His collapse in the Masters, after being up by eight strokes and then throwing it all away to Nick Faldo, is one of sports’ epic collapses. Then there are the number of miracle shots that cost him titles.

Of course Norman immediately posted two bogies to fall into a tie. To his credit, the Aussie once known as the Great White Shark actually rallied to retake the lead, but he gassed out down the stretch, finishing third.

For us, we’re looking at still one more day of life in the 90s. We are due to hit the low 90s again Tuesday, which would make it seven straight days.

Doesn’t bother me in the least. Bring ‘em on. I’ll be out on the porch tonight. Poring over the papers. At least until I nod off again. And force another member of the family to venture out into the heat to rouse from another midsummer night’s dream.

The Fightin' Phils

Don’t look now, but your fightin’ Phils are becoming just that.

To put it kindly, this is not exactly the way the Phils wanted to come out of the blocks in the second half of the season. The Phillies dropped two of three in South Florida. But it was the way they went about their business that got the veins in manager Charlie Manuel’s neck bulging.

The Phils were sloppy. They played poor defense. Their offense continues to be anemic. And they continue to struggle with the kind of fundamentals – such as moving runners – that is supposed to be taken care of here in South Florida a few months earlier, as in spring training.

After the Phils wasted another gem from Cole Hamels, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Marlins in 11 innings, Manuel apparently had seen enough.

The skipper aired out his troops after the loss, letting them know he’s none too happy with their offense and lethargic play.

The Phillies were one for six with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.

This team simply does not do the little things that make an offense go when they are not hitting home runs. How many times have they got a runner into scoring position on second base with less than two outs and the next batter fails to move the runner to third? They don’t sacrifice especially well. They don’t hit behind the runner. They don’t take pitches. They continue to pop out or strike out in key situations.

There are signs that Manuel may not be the only one tiring of the Phils’ act. After another no-decision in a game in which he gave up just two runs on four hits, young star Cole Hamels was starting to sound frustrated.

That would give him something in common with Pat Burrell. He sounds like he’s getting more and more ticked with the idea of being lifted for late-innings defense, then missing key at-bats when the game goes into extra innings.

They have a day off today, then go into the cauldron of the Big Apple.

The Phils are now in a dead-even tie with the Mets, with the Marlins just a half-game back.

Maybe they can take out some of their frustration on the New Yorkers. Either that or they will have to do what they did last year, come from behind to catch the Mets down the stretch.

I don’t think they can count on the Mets folding up the way they did last year. Maybe there’s something about being in first place in the NL East that makes teams play tight.

The Phils need to figure it out. And soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 18

The Daily Numbers: 221 pounds of pot seized in a raid in Folcroft. It has a street value of $440,000.

6,500 dollars worth of weed nabbed in another raid, this one in Upper Darby, where 3 to 5 pounds were seized.

96 degrees, our expected high this afternoon. We’re under an excessive heat warning.

104 the real-feel temperature of how it will feel out there.

4 more days with temperatures in the 90s, as the heat wave is expected to drag on through Tuesday.

30 Middletown residents tabbed to take part in what is called a “charrette,” a panel discussion targeting the proposed development of the old Franklin Mint site on Baltimore Pike.

181 dollars more, what it will cost students to attend West Chester, Cheyney or one of the other state universities. A 3.5 percent hike was approved yesterday.

3.7 percent tax hike included in the final budget adopted by the Marple Newtown School Board.

15 weekends in jail for a Havertown man who was charged with DUI while riding his bicycle in Montgomery County.

3 men captured on video being beaten after their arrest by Philadelphia police who were held for trial yesterday. Their families are irate, insisting the police have the wrong men.

7 out of 10 people who responded to a poll by AAA who said they are cutting down on spending in other areas to pay for gasoline.

182 single-engine planes being put up for sale by Pennsylvania state police.

51 age of Australian biking coach who is being charged with the rape of a 15-year-old girl in Northampton County.

17 million dollars being poured into a rejuvenation project for the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philly.

10 summary counts of animal cruelty and 3 misdemeanors being lodged against an Amish farmer in Chester County because of conditions in the dog kennel he runs there.

5 newstands lifted right off the street in Philly. A man has been acquitted of all charges that he stole them.

5 wins and 12 losses this year for Joe Blanton with the A’s. The Phils acquired the right-handed pitcher for 3 prospects.

4.96 ERA for Blanton, who will take Adam Eaton’s spot in the rotation.

0 game lead in the NL East for the Phils. They’re now tied with the Mets. The Marlins are 1.5 games back.

10 straight wins for the Mets, who won again last night in their return from the All-Star break.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Joe Blaton will never be confused with Nolan Ryan. But he’s an upgrade for the Phils’ pitching staff. Anything to get Adam Eaton out of the starting rotation.
I Don’t Get It: Lots of people are no doubt sleepy this morning because they just had to be first in line to catch the midnight showings of the new Batman flick last night. Including my son. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Very nice gesture by someone who showed up at Pam Jones’ Ridley home with a new puppy to replace the one she lost, allegedly at the hands of her sword-wielding husband.

Quote Box: “He told he me hear heard about my story and he asked me if I wanted to have her.”

-- Pam Jones on the anonymous stranger who delivered the new pooch to her home.

Justice for Keith Crego

Judging by the responses to our Web site and some of the calls and e-mails I am getting, there seems to be no shortage of folks upset that Keith Crego is being allowed to take part in a work-release program.

Crego, in case you don’t know, is the one-man wrecking crew who wreaked havoc on the Penn-Delco School District last year. The former school board president eventually was charged with a series of felonies, most tied to his secret involvement with Quick Start Preschools LLC, a very popular program in the district that he had surreptitiously bankrolled.

Of course Crego did not go down alone. He took a lot of people with him, not the least of which was respected Superintendent Leslye Abrutyn. She also entered a plea tied to a connection she had with Quick Start.

And he left a shroud over the school district that the good people of Brookhaven, Aston and Parkside are still trying to dig out of.

But the fact is that Crego got what was coming to him – including his sentence and his new spot in the work-release program.

Would anyone want to trade places with the guy? Here’s someone who was a heartbeat away from being the new CEO of the Chester Upland School District.

Now he’s ruined, and left a school district in ruins.

The D.A.’s office and county detectives did an exhaustive investigation. The deal they entered into put Crego behind bars for a year. And it’s not like he’s been released. Under the work-release program, Crego still returns to jail each night.

As much damage as Crego did, it’s important that he not be treated any differently than any other convict. That includes his eligibility for work release.

Judge Barry Dozor actually rejected the first application Crego made for the program because he didn’t like some of the details.

Bottom line? Keith Crego got what he deserved. And he still is.

Granted, that may not make everyone who lives in the district happy, but it is the way our system works.

Biking under the influence

Some guys just can’t get a break.

Consider Jeff Burke of Havertown. A few years back he picked up a DUI violation.

To avoid ever having that happen again, he started riding a bike when he was out carousing.

Last year he was having a couple of beers to celebrate the 4th of July. But the fireworks for him were only just beginning.

He was pedaling home on his bike, as he usually does, when he got rear-ended by a person in a car.

Adding insult to injury, he was charged with another DUI – for riding his bike while under the influence. Honest.

This week he was sentenced to 15 consecutive weekends in jail – 30 days. And he’s getting 22 months probation just for good measure.

Yes, it does seem like Burke is being punished for trying to do the right thing. He didn’t want to get behind the wheel. So he climbed on his bike instead.

That was his mistake, according to the Montgomery County D.A.’s office. They consider the bike a vehicle, and thus Burke left himself open to the DUI charge

So far there appears to be nothing about walking under the influence. Or sleeping it off under the influence.

Guess we can add this one to the list of bizarre DUI cases we’ve seen, including people on riding mowers, and riding horses, who have been charged.

Sometimes it’s better just to not leave the house.

Simply Amazin'

The Phillies start the second half of the season tonight in first place.

But they are no longer alone. The Mets won last night, picking up right where they left off before the break. That makes 10 straight wins for the Amazin’s.

More importantly, it brings them into a tie with the Phils, who open a three-game set tonight in Florida against the Marlins.

The Phillies did get something important accomplished during the break. Last night GM Pat Gillick pulled the trigger on a deal to plug a huge hole in their starting rotation.

The Phils acquired starting right-hander Joe Blanton from the A’s for three minor league prospects. Blanton’s not a Cy Young candidate, but he’s better than anything the Phillies can send out to the mound other than Cole Hamels.

He muzzled the Phils’ bats in Oakland during their recent West Coast swing. He’ll fill Adam Eaton’s spot nicely. Eaton goes to the bullpen, and everyone holds their breath to see just what Brett Myers has in his tank when he returns to the team next week.

Let the second-half begin. A prediction? The Phils and Mets take turns at the top of the NL East all summer, but the New Yorkers gain some measure of revenge for their collapse last year by nipping the Phils on the final weekend of the season.

Hey, all’s not lost, the Eagles head to training camp on Monday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 17

The Daily Numbers: 33 buildings in a sprawling Ridley Township apartment complex where residents are being evicted because their landlord has not fixed ongoing problems.

280.5 million dollars, value of deal to build helicopters that will see Boeing team with the Italian giant Finmecannica and their subsidiary, AgustaWestland.

25 accidents in Haverford Township tied to deer on the roads. The township is again contemplating a hunt to thin the hered.

30 days in the slammer for a Havertown man on a driving under the influence charged in Montgomery County. He was on a bicycle at the time.

3 age of girl missing and believed abducted by her mother’s boyfriend after a domestic incident in North Philadelphia.

1 person killed and five others seriously injured in what is now being termed a case of road rage taken to the extreme on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia. A man is charged with repeatedly slamming his car into another, leading to the fiery crash.

9 lawmakers calling for a special session on ethics in Harrisburg in the fallout from the latest capital controversy.

50 year-old wedding ring that was found in the sands of the Jersey shore by a crabber. Now they’re looking to return the ring to its rightful owner. The date inside indicates the person was married June 1, 1958. It’s inscribed with “EPH to MH.”

2 newlyweds from Chester County who face jail time after entering pleas in a series of car break-ins, some of which occurred in Delaware County. The duo are believed to have enlisted some kids in Marple in their heists.

17 years ago, that’s the last time consumer prices shot up by as much as they did in June. The consumer price index was up 1.1 percent.

1 female CEO in the history of Sunoco. That would be Lynn Laverty Elsenhans, who was named Wednesday to replace John Drosdick, who is retiring.

276 point surge for stocks yesterday, apparently boosted by an unexpected drop in oil prices.

4.15 a gallon, what we’re still paying for gas. Funny how long it takes for the price to come down, as opposed to when it’s headed the other way.

4 years left on his deal for Lito Sheppard, the unhappy Eagles cornerback who hired Drew Rosenhaus to represent him.

3 games with the Marlins in South Florida starting Friday night as the Phils kick off the second half of the season.

.5 game lead for the Phils over the Mets, 1.5 over the Marlins. The Phils head to the Big Apple for three starting Monday night.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Someone please tell me Brett Myers is ready to return to the Phillies starting rotation as the stud he was supposed to be when he was tabbed to pitch the season opener. Myers may be on the Hill Wednesday night in the Big Apple.
I Don’t Get It: Anyone else notice how the talk of reform in Harrisburg always comes on the heels of the latest scandal. And how fast business usually returns to normal once the ink on the headlines fades.

Today’s Upper: The people of Collingdale are showing how to respond to mindless racial vandalism, by rallying around the Bailey family, who saw their cars damaged by vandals. Well done.

Quote Box: “Most practical at this time would be lethal removal of deer.”

-- Report from the Natural Lands Trust in recommending a hunt to thin deer herd on the former Haverford State Hospital property.

A lesson in Collingdale

You have to admire Irene Bailey and her family in Collingdale.

They returned home from church recently to find an ugly discovering waiting for them on their usually quiet street.

Someone had carved racist graffiti onto their cars, spray-painted both vehicles and slashed the tires.

Irene Bailey and her family are African-American. They reported the incident to police. It is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

It would be natural for the Bailey family to lash out at such mindless actions.

They’re taking another tack.

Irene Bailey has forgiven the vandals and is urging her family to do likewise.

“I hope they come to their senses and realize people work hard to provide for their families and loved ones and they should take pride in other people’s property,” Irene Bailey said.

Bailey and her husband live in Collingdale with their three children. While they have been taken aback by the racial vandalism – the latest in a string of recent incidents in the county – they also were startled by something else.

They have been overwhelmed by the support and backing they have received since the incident hit the press. People have knocked on their door asking how they can help. One person offered a check for $100.

There are always going to be a few knuckleheads who resort to such hateful acts. The reaction of the Baileys – as well as the way the community rallied around them – reminds us once again the good will always triumph over evil.

Looking for ethics in Harrisburg

Nothing like a little scandal to get the good folks who represent us out in Harrisburg talking about reform again.

The breast-beating broke out shortly after charges were filed against one current state representative, one former House Democratic leader and a slew of legislative staffers.

It was your business as usual Harrisburg shenanigans, workers whose main job description seemed to be working on political campaigns. One top aide faces charges that he put his young paramour on the public payroll. No one knows exactly what – if anything – she did for her salary. She apparently did it pretty well, however. She also was given a bonus – also on the taxpayers’ tab. Oh, and this guy’s wife? She also faces charges in the probe.

Attorney General Tom Corbett, perhaps feeling a bit of heat in that all those charged were Democrats, assured us that this is an ongoing investigation and he expects more charges to be filed.


Now people are talking about reform. Again.

Nine lawmakers are calling for a special legislative session to deal solely with legislative ethics. Which kind of makes you wonder how many Harrisburg pols it takes to discover ethics.

This reform-minded group believes the public has lost faith in our leaders in the state Capitol? Gee, ya think?

We’ve been down this road before. And not all that long ago.

Remember the infamous legislative pay-grab? Our legislators voted themselves a pay hike in the wee hours of the night, then high-tailed it out of town.

The flaming embers they left behind soon erupted into a conflagration. It sparked a voter backlash not seen in this state in a long time. Eventually a sitting Supreme Court justice was rejected in what is usally a perfunctory vote. A slew of legislators were shown the door. Others decided to get out before the public, hot on their tail with pitchforks in hand, could get their mitts on them at the voting booth.

And so once again the mea culpas are being heard in Harrisburg.

“We are under a dark cloud,” said Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York. “We need to get back to the people’s work.”

Yeah, we’ll believe that when we see it. This tempest soon will pass as well.

And the Legislature will indeed get back to their work. Getting re-elected being at the top of the list.

Next question, sports fans

It’s not just the heat – or the humidity – that is making it feel like dog days for sports fans.

It’s one of those rare times when there’s very little going on. The Phils do not get back into action until Friday night in Florida. In the meantime, they’re trying to figure out their pitching lineup and when to get Brett Myers back into the starting rotation.

If the Los Angeles Kings, who have less than a stellar record in their time in the NHL, ever get themselves into a big game and start wondering about that tightness in their throats, they can ask their new coach for help.

The Kings have hired Flyers assistant Terry Murray as their new head coach.

Murray gained a modicum of fame back when he was the head man on the Flyers’ bench. Murray led the team to the Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings. With the Flyers down 3-0 and looking at being swept, Murray summed things up thusly: “Basically, it’s a choking situation.”

His team promptly threw up another loss in Game 4. Murray was relieved of his coaching duties shortly after.

And finally there’s the Eagles, who head back to Lehigh for training camp next week. They made a little news yesterday when it was announced that their disgruntled cornerback, Lito Sheppard, has hired himself a new agent.

And who might that be? None other than Drew Rosenhaus, the man in Terrell Owens’ corner in his battle royal with the Birds.

My reaction to the Rosenhaus hiring? “Next Question.”

If you don’t get that, you’re not really a Philly sports fan.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 16

The Daily Numbers: 8 bucks an hour, what former Penn-Delco School Board President Keith Crego is making at his work-release job. He leaves prison each day to go to work, then returns to jail at night under a deal OK’d by a Delco judge.

2 people with close relationships to former U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon who have now been charged in connection with a federal probe of Weldon’s dealings. He has not been charged.

30,000 dollars in fake machine payouts concocted by a Philadelphia woman in an attempt to rip off Harrah’s Casino. She pleaded guilty.

18 months in jail for an Upper Darby man charged with counterfeiting $20 bills. He also has to pay a $1,000 fine.

33 buildings at the sprawling Ridley Towne Manor apartments where residents are being evicted because of code and safety violations.

1 persons believed killed in a nasty crash overnight on the Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia.

2 people killed in a head-on crash Tuesday night in New Castle County, Del.

1 shopkeeper killed and his wife seriously injured when robbers invaded a store run by African immigrants in Philly.

4 people rescued from a fire at a house in Burlington County, N.J., Tuesday night.

85,000 dollars in copper ripped off from four locations in Vineland, N.J., by thieves on a spree seeking any precious metals they can get their hands on to sell for some quick cash.

622 million dollar charge being taken by US Airlines in the second quarter.

5 newsstands ripped off by a guy using a crane to lift them right out of their spots on Philly streets.

12 straight years in which the American League has not lost an All-Star game. That includes one tie.

4 hours and change, how long it took to play the 15-inning Mid-Summer Classic.

3 errors for NL second baseman Dan Uggla, the first time that’s ever happened.

1 All-Star appearance for Phillies’ nemesis J.D. Drew, and one MVP performance after he homered in last night’s game.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The All-Star break is too long. We have to wait for Friday night for the Phils to get back into action against the Marlins.
I Don’t Get It: There no doubt will be an uproar in Penn-Delco over work release being granted to jailed former school board president Keith Crego. The fact is he’s eligible for the program and there’s no reason why he should not be given that consideration.

Today’s Upper: They can knock down the Spectrum. Just as they did with the Vet. But they can’t destroy the memories. Where have you gone, Don Saleski?

Quote Box: “Any suggestion that Ms. Grimes engaged in any inappropriate, illegal or improper conduct with regard to her role as a lobbyist is incorrect and unfounded.”

-- Richard L. Scheff, lawyer for Cecilia Grimes, who entered a plea to federal charges that she destroyed some evidence connected to a federal probe of former Congressman Curt Weldon.

A full Spectrum of memories

In a world of Citizens Bank Parks, Lincoln Financial Fields and Wachovia Center, the little brick building known simply as The Spectrum no longer as a place in our sports and entertainment complex.

It sits like a trailer on the Main Line. You can almost hear the audible “Ewwwww.” From everyone except those who love the place.

That would be those legions of fans who forever will remember it as the place where the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup, in the process shaking off the image that hung around our necks for more than a generation, the entitlement of every Philly fan as a gruff, loveable loser.

It’s the place where the city enjoyed its last championship run, back when the Dr. J., Moses, and Mo led the Sixers to a title in 1983.

And it’s the place where so many of us saw our first big-time concert. Everyone from Elvis to Bruce Springsteen played the joint, and it only seemed like Foghat opened the show for all of them.

Times change. Hell, they’re even tearing down Yankee Stadium.

So it’s not hard to believe that the Spectrum will make way for a glitzy entertainment and retail complex to be known as “Philly Live.”

Comcast-Spectacor, the folks who own the joint, say a hotel will likely anchor the complex at the corner of Broad and Pattison. It will have to be a big one to house all the memories oozing out of the place.

Much like Veterans Stadium, the Spectrum will be just a memory after next season.

Everywhere except in the hearts of the fans who loved the old place.

Buildings obviously age almost as fast as the athletes who play in them.

The Spectrum is but 40 years old. But the memories will live forever.

Another chapter in the Weldon saga

This time two years ago Joe Sestak was beginning to turn the heat up on Curt Weldon in what would become an epic battle for the 7th District Congressional seat.

That race was turned on its head just a few weeks before election day when the FBI raided the home of Weldon’s daughter, and then-Springfield GOP chief Charlie Sexton, an adviser to the Weldon campaign.

The feds said they were looking for information connected to their probe of Weldon’s dealings, and whether he used his influence to steer contracts to the firm run by his daughter and Sexton.

Weldon and his backers are convinced the raid cost him the seat he had held for 20 years as he became a heavy hitter in Washington, known for his strong views on foreign policy and his connections in Russia.

Fast-forward two years. No charges have yet to be brought against Weldon, his daughter or Sexton. It’s uncertain whether any ever will.

But like a leaky faucet, the Weldon probe will not go away. It comes out in dribs and drabs.

Tuesday the spigot opened up a little bit more.

A lobbyist and real estate agent with close ties to Weldon was charged in connection with the probe. Ironically, the charges against Cecilia Grimes of Media stem not from anything she may have done in connection with Weldon, but rather for things she apparently did after word surfaced of the probe.

The feds allege she destroyed records after she was interviewed by the FBI about her dealings with Weldon. Among the things she did was toss her Blackberry personal computer into a trash can at a fast-food joint.

She is expected to enter a guilty plea in federal court next week. The expectation is that she is cooperating with federal authorities.

She’s not the first. A former top Weldon aide, Russ Caso Jr., entered a plea for failing to report income earned by his wife from a firm that had dealings with Weldon. He also is cooperating with prosecutors.

Since leaving office, Weldon has taken a position with Defense Solutions, of Exton, Chester County, where he has been putting his expertise in Russian and eastern European affairs to use.

But the federal investigation that hangs over him never seems too far away. And the drip is getting louder.

All-Star bummers for Philly fans

If the Phillies are going to win a World Series title, they’ll have to do it without the home-field advantage.

That’s because the American League won last night’s All-Star game.

Of course, you probably did not know that. And why is that? Because the game, which thanks to all the pre-game hype and hoopla did not start until well after 9 p.m., then proceeded to take 15 innings to decide. The contest finally ended about 4 hours later, at 1:30 in the morning.

Call it the New York Marathon.

To add insult to injury, Phils’ closer Brad Lidge got tagged with the loss.

But that’s not even the worst part. Guess who took the MVP award? None other than our old pal J.D. Drew. Yep, the guy who infamously earned a permanent spot in the Philly Hall of Shame when he turned up his nose at the Phils, refusing to sign with them after they made him the top pick in the draft.

More than a decade later, Drew is still Public Enemy No. 1 in Philly, where fans derisively call him J.D. ‘Boo.’ This was Drew’s first appearance at an All-Star game.

Turns out he’s not all that popular in New York either. Drew, who now wears a Red Sox uniform, was lustily booed by the New Yorkers.

Guess that gives him something in common with someone who is actually beloved here in Philly. That would be Chase Utley.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 15

The Daily Numbers: 4 letter in the popular expletive blurted out by Chase Utley after he was booed by New York fans last night. Unfortunately for Utley, they were picked up by his TV mike. He apologized.

40 years the Spectrum has stood at the corner of Broad and Pattison at the South Philly sports complex. Not much longer. Ed Snider confirmed it will be knocked down to make way for a new hotel.

3 year-old dog killed in Ridley. Police have charged a woman’s husband with stabbing the pooch with a sword.

10 swords and 20 daggers seized by police from the man’s home.

2 video gaming machines and $15,610 seized when police raided Della Polla’s Family Tavern on MacDade Boulevard last night.

4,133 Democrats who have joined the county voting rolls between April 15 and June 11. That’s 41 percent of voters. Republicans still command a registration edge at 48 percent, but it’s getting smaller.

2 people from Yeadon who waived their preliminary hearing yesterday on charges that they assaulted a parking meter maid in Upper Darby.

75,000 dollar grant delivered to volunteer firefighters in Bethel yesterday by Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and Rep. Joe Sestak.

134 phone calls from Tim Donaghy to another NBA ref that are being reviewed, according to a Fox News report. Donaghy is the Delco native at the center of an NBA betting scandal.

1.4 million dollars, an elderly woman’s life savings, believed ripped off in Montgomery County by a woman financial planner from New Jersey.

6 years in the slammer, what the female half of Philly’s glamorous so-called “Bonnie & Clyde” of ID theft is likely looking at after entering a guilty plea yesterday.

9 days, how long 63rd Street in Upper Darby will be shut down for a reconstruction project on the Market-Frankford El. There is no El service between 69th Street and 40th Street as well.

2 doctors injured in Bryn Mawr when the scooter they were riding was struck by an SUV.

1,500 feet, how high a proposed skyscraper will stand in Philadelphia. It’s expected to be reviewed by the Planning Commission today. It would be the tallest building between New York City and Chicago.

2 massive bronze doors stolen from a Mausoleum in Delaware.

9 arson fires, mostly in abandoned houses, reported in Sussex County, Del.

28 home runs for Josh Hamilton in the first round of last night’s All-Star Home Run Derby. And he didn’t win. He fell in the final to Minnesota’s Justin Morneau.

5 home runs for Chase Utley, who went out in the first round.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Utley dropped the F-bomb after being booed by fans during the introductions. Yep, he’s one of us.
I Don’t Get It: A domestic disagreement in Ridley ended when a man used a sword to kill his wife’s dog, according to police. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Get outside at some point today and enjoy the weather. We’re looking at one of the best days of the summer so far.

Quote Box: “We are working on the registration numbers to see what we can do.”

-- Delco GOP boss Tom Judge, on more gains being made to cut into the GOP’s registration edge in the county.

Fat lady sings for Specrum

Ed Snider made official last night something we first told you back in January.

The Spectrum, the legendary sports and concert arena that has stood for 40 years as one of the cornerstones of the South Philly sports complex, is doomed.

The place where the Flyers were serenaded by Kate Smith on their way to winning the Stanley Cup, and where a generation of music fans were introduced to acts like Billy Joel and some skinny kid from New Jersey by the name of Bruce Springsteen, has a date with the wrecker’s ball.

Our Flyers beat reporter, Anthony SanFilippo, first reported that the old brick building will make way for a luxury hotel, one of the centerpieces of a huge sports-retail-nightlife development to be called “Philly Live.” It will be modeled after similar sites in other areas of the country, including the harbor development in Baltimore.

Snider confirmed the move on Comcast last night.

“This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Snider, who is the head honcho at Comcast-Spectacor. “The Spectrum is my baby. It’s one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me.”

In addition to being the place where the Flyers turned around a city’s fortune and made us winners – brawling their way to a Stanley Cup in 1974 – it’s also where we last title town moment. That would be when the Sixers won the NBA title in 1983.

It’s been Death Valley ever since.

Maybe knocking the old joint down will kick start a new era.

Let's cut to the Chase

Chase Utley lost the Home Run Derby last night. But he probably won some more points with Philly fans.

And he did it in a way that just about every Philly fan can identify with.

Utley had a bit of a run-in with fans at Yankee Stadium. The leading vote-getter for the All-Star team was booed as he was introduced for the Home Run Derby. Nothing unusual about that. He plays for Philly. The Phils hold a half-game lead over that other New York team in the NL East race at the break.

There’s also nothing terribly unusual about Utley’s response. What is unusual is that he apparently forgot he was wearing a microphone for TV for the event.

As he was given a lusty Bronx cheer, Utley responded in kind. “Boo? (Bleep) you,” was Utley’s retort, invoking the ever-popular F-bomb.

How do we know this? It was picked up by Utley’s mike.

The All-Star was apologetic after the contest.

“I do want to apologize. It was a poor choice of words,” Utley said. “I didn’t really mean anything by it, I was just joking around with my buddy.”

This isn’t an attempt to let Utley off the hook. What he said – despite it becoming increasingly prevalent in our society – is wrong and he shouldn’t have said it.

Just as almost all of us should not say in any number of times during the course of our hectic days.

Only thing is when we drop that specific four-letter word, our comments are not broadcast on national TV.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 14

The Daily Numbers: 3 people killed in the dangerous surf at the Jersey shore. Blame it on rip currents being whipped up by Hurricane Bertha. The situation is expected to remain dangerous for several days.

21 age of man missing after he went for a swim in the Delaware River near the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

1 of 2 women visiting Philadelphia from St. Louis to watch the Cardinals-Phillies games who was struck by a car who has died of her injuries.

2 men found stabbed to death in a house in Wilmington, Del.

30 percent, what some experts fear electric rates will increase when caps on costs expire in 2011.

2 firefighters who suffered heat exhaustion while battling a blaze in Upper Darby Sunday.

85 years of faith celebrated Sunday at First Baptist Church in Woodlyn.

4 killed in another weekend of street violence in Philadelhia.

9 American soldiers killed, another 15 injured in an attack on their base in Afghanistan.

14 percent increase in ridership on regional rails as commuters look to get out of their cars.

100 years old and going strong for Paul Reyburn, owner of Reyburn’s Tavern in Chadds Ford.

.5 game lead for the Phils over the surging Mets at the All-Star break.

23 home runs for Pat Burrell, whose blast in the eighth Sunday lifted the Phils to a 6-3 win over the D-Backs. But he’s not going to the All-Star Game.

9 straight wins going into the All-Star break for the red-hot Mets.

1 more win for the Soul and they claim the Arena Football League title.

2 Phillies who will be at Yankee Stadium for the Mid-Summer Classic. Chase Utley, who will take part in tonight’s Home Run Derby, will be joined by Brad Lidge.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Someone explain to me how the guy leading the league in home runs and RBIs doesn’t make it onto the All-Star team? Ryan Howard got jobbed.
I Don’t Get It: Maybe it’s time to re-think the whole idea of fan balloting for the All-Star game, let alone that sham of the final roster spot being decided by Internet balloting.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the lifeguards who turned up at Aquatic Swim Club in Ridley Sunday to raise money for the scholarship fund that bears the name of Michael Reagan. He’s the Sharon Hill firefighter who died in the line of duty while fighting a garage fire last year.

Quote Box: “We are in the midst of a major global energy crisis and electricity is the only energy commodity that hasn’t gone through the roof.”

-- Former PUC member John Hanger, talking about the looming deregulation of electricity and the expected rate hikes that will accompany it.

Business in Harrisburg

It’s nice to know some things don’t change.

Members of our state Legislature and some of their staff are showing up in handcuffs.

Why are we not surprised. This is the same gang that decided to vote themselves a pay hike in the middle of the night and thought nobody would be upset by it. After all, that’s just the way things are done in Harrisburg.

The subsequent pay-grab revolt rocked the capitol. Some long-entrenched members of the Legislature actually were voted out. Others saw the handwriting on the wall and left of their own accord.

Eventually, things calmed down, and the Harrisburg folks went back to business as usual. Sure, there was lots of talk about “reform.” A few measures were passed, including a much-needed improvement to state open records laws.

But this is still a group that too often uses the public treasury as its own feeding trough.

Last week Attorney General Tom Corbett announced charges against a former House Dem leader, Mike Veon, as well as a sitting member of the House, and 10 staffers.

It’s the usual grab-bag of “Harrisburg hustling.”

No-show jobs, work for at least one guy’s mistress, and workers on the state payroll whose main job seemed to be doing campaign work. It’s often jokingly said that the primary job of a politician is getting re-elected. These guys apparently took that literally.

Corbett says he is not done. That he expects more people to be charged, and that, contrary to his critics, he is not simply targeting Democrats in an election year.

We’re not surprised. This is Harrisburg, after all. Like we said, some things don’t change.

A snub of All-Star proportions

Raise your hand if you think Ryan Howard got ripped off off in the voting for the National League All-Star team? Thought so.

Look, it’s one thing for Howard not to be voted into the starting lineup. He had a horrible start, with a batting average that floated around the Mendoza line much of the spring.

But Howard, as he usually does, has been heating up. And even his horrific start didn’t really affect his production. Howard’s numbers are eye-popping.

He has 28 home runs and 84 RBIs. Both are tops in the National League. But he does not have a spot on the NL All-Star team. Know the last time that happened? Try 1948, and Hank Sauers. Manager Clint Hurdle could have added Howard to the spot vacated by an injured Alfonso Soriano. Instead he chose David Wright of the Mets.

Tonight’s Home Run Derby will be held without Howard as well, which kind of makes the whole thing a joke. Only it’s probably not all that funny to Howard, whose vote totals were dwarfed by those of starter Lance Berkman.

Here’s another oddity. How can Chase Utley be the top vote-getter, and Howard be nowhere in sight on the balloting?

Then there’s Pat Burrell. No, he’s not on the team either. He missed his chance when he was not voted into the last spot by the gimmicky Internet voting. So Burrell went out Sunday and put an exclamation point on his absence by blasting a game-winning homer in the eighth. It assured the Phils a win over the Diamondbacks, another series win, and that they would finish the break in first place in the NL East.

In the big picture, that’s what’s really important. Still, it rubs us the wrong way to see a young star such as Howard get so obviously snubbed.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 11

The Daily Numbers: 4 bucks, what it likely will cost you to use the Commodore Barry Bridge into Jersey come September. The DRPA wants a dollar toll hike, followed by another buck in 2010.

10 million dollars, what the DRPA kicked into the Chester stadium and economic development project. Officials said yesterday in announcing the toll hikes they would not use any of the toll money for any future such projects.

23 million dollars that is needed for a redecking project on the Barry Bridge.

2 elderly residents forced out of their home when flames roared through a residence on East 24th Street in Chester Thursday night.

3 alarm blaze that left a family homeless in Upper Darby.

12 people charged in what is being referred to as “bonus-gate” in Harrisburg, including a current state rep and the former House Democratic whip.

2 fans from St. Louis in town for the Phils-Cards series who suffered serious injuries when they were struck by a suspected drunk driver while jogging last night on Broad Street near the stadium.

18 age a person will have to be to cruise Christiana Mall without parental supervision after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night, starting tonight.

3G that’s the hot new Apple iPhone that goes on sale this morning. The 8-gigabyte version goes for $199, with a 16-gig version setting you back $299.

3.5 percent pay hike for members of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police under a new 1-year deal the union reached with the city.

19 billion bucks, what Dow Chemical Co. will fork over to buy the venerable giant of the Philly chemical world, Rohm and Haas.

30 governors from across the nation who will spend the weekend in Philly for the National Governors Association meeting.

1 cent dip in price of gasoline in the region, according to AAA. Gas now will set you back a cool $4.15 a gallon, or about what it will cost to cross the Commodore Barry Bridge.

5.5 year stint as head of the state Department of Environmental Protection for Kathleen McGinty. She announced yesterday she will be leaving the Rendell Administration.

200 people believed involved in a melee that sparked a huge police response last night on Reno Street in West Philly.

41 years, how long the Francisan fathers have been a presence at Archbishop Ryan High School. That will come to an end because there are not enough priests to staff the facility.

2 home runs for Phils slugger Ryan Howard yesterday to lead the Phils to a 4-1 win over the Cards.

27 dingers for Howard, who overtook teammate Chase Utley for the National League lead.

3 RBIs for Howard, who now sits at 83, also tops in the National League.

7 strong innings for Jamie Moyer, who held the Cards to just 1 run to pick up his 8th win of the year.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
I know Ryan Howard struggled early in the season. But how can the National League hold an All-Star game and not have the league’s leading home run and RBI man at the game?
I Don’t Get It: A group of teens in Delaware are suspected of pouring lighter fluid on a cat and setting it on fire. The kitten did not survive.

Today’s Upper: Maybe this will make your Friday go a little faster. Try not to look outside. It’s a gorgeous day. The good news is that it’s supposed to stay that way for most of the weekend.

Quote Box: “Let me make this perfectly clear: This is not the conclusion. This is an ongoing investigation.”

-- State Attorney General Tom Corbett, in announcing charges against 12 state elected officials and employees in the “bonus-gate” probe in Harrisburg.

Did stadium money take a toll?

Looks like they set up that deal for the soccer stadium in Chester just in time.

You might remember that one of the final links in the financing puzzle that will bring Major League Soccer to Chester – and a $115 million, 18,500-seat stadium to the city’s riverfront – was a $10 million “contribution” from the Delaware River Port Authority.

Maybe you’ve heard of them. They’re the folks who run the four major bridges that connect Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester.

They were in the news yesterday. They need more money. And they know where to look for it: the people who use those bridges every day.

DRPA officials announced Thursday they will seek a rate hike for the four spans. They want a dollar more in September, and then another buck increase in 2010. That means it will cost $4 to go over the bridge in September, with $5 not far off in the future. DRPA also said it would like to see future increases tied to inflation to keep pace with rising costs.

The timing could not be worse. Drivers already are paying “through the nozzle” as gas prices head for the stratosphere, sitting right now at a robust $4.15 a gallon on average.

But the timing is especially lousy for DRPA for another reason as well. Officials have been getting an earful over their penchant to use money for redevelopment projects along the river, instead of solely for insfrastructure, repairs on the bridges or maybe even lower bridge tolls.

The Chester stadium is not the only benefactor from DRPA’s largesse. Other sites also have been the beneficiary, including Lincoln Financial Field, the Kimmel Center, the National Constitution Center, and Campbell Field in Camden.

Yesterday, in announcing their fare hike requests, DRPA officials conceded they have heard the complaints from the fare-paying public. And they’re cutting off the gravy train.

Officials vowed not to use any of the anticipated revenue for anything other than their primary mission, operating the bridges.

“Going forward, I want to assure you that new moneys raised from these proposed toll increases will not be used for economic development projects,” said DRPA boss John Matheussen. “Our efforts and the toll money will be dedicated to our assets, our bridges and PATCO.”

None of which is likely to make those forking over another buck to cross the bridge especially happy.

But think of it this way: Consider the grand view of the Chester stadium you’ll have as you head over the Commodore Barry. After all, the stadium is going to sit almost directly underneath the majestic span.

Consider yourself a part owner. Just don’t expect a luxury box.

Kids get 'malled'

When I was a kid they called us “townies.” We hung out on street corners. When we got our driver’s licenses, we drove around town, trying desperately to look as cool as possible.

Of course, that was when gas was selling for 50 cents a gallon and you and your buddies could ride around all Saturday night on a couple dollars of gas. Today, you can’t fill up your lawn mower for that.

I suppose today’s counterpart would be called “mall rats.” That’s what kids do. Instead of hanging out on the corner, they congregate at the mall.

But starting tonight in Delaware, they’re going to have some company – their parents. Or they will have to find a new spot to try to look cool.

That’s because Christiana Mall tonight will become the first shopping mall in the region to institute something of a curfew.

From 5 p.m. to closing, teens under 18 will need to be accompanied by a parent on Friday and Saturday nights.

The mall is serious about this, and will apparently have security guards checking the doors. Imagine that, being carded as you enter the mall.

This has been sparked by complaints about the large groups of unsupervised kids hanging out.

A Christiana Mall spokesman said a similar plan is in place at some 50 shopping centers across the nation. But for now they’re the only one with such a policy in this area. But apparently he has gotten lots of calls – and support – from other regional malls that will be watching closely to see how the new plan goes over.

It’s not going over all that well with kids. One group already is planning a boycott of the facility. I don’t think that’s going to work.

Most kids go to the mall for the precise reason of getting out of the house – and out from under their parents’ watchful eyes – if only for a few hours. And it seems to me that lots of parents actually like the idea of dropping the kids off at the mall. At least they know where they are.

Now kids and parents have a choice. Do they all go to the mall together, or do kids find another place to hang out?

One thing’s for certain. I don’t think they’re going back to riding around town in their cars? Who has that kind of money?

Then again, if I know anything about kids, that might be preferable to strolling the local mall with mom and dad.

All-Star numbers for Ryan Howard

Yesterday I wrote about the possibility that Ryan Howard just might be ready to lift this Phillies team on his broad shoulders and carry them through the summer.

Maybe Ryan was reading. He went out yesterday and put an fairly emphatic exclamation point on the issue. Howard had two home runs as the Phils beat the Cards, 4-1. The Phils took two of three and now welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to town for a weekend set before breaking for the All-Star Game.

Speaking of that break, it couldn’t come at a worse time for Howard. He’s starting to heat up, and now leads the National League in homers with 27, blowing by teammate Chase Utley. Howard also sits atop the heap of RBI leaders with 83 after driving in three of the Phillies four runs yesterday.

But Howard is getting some unexpected time off next week. That’s because the Major League’s home run leader is not going to the All-Star Game. Howard trailed badly in the voting for first base. One way to look at it is that most of the voting took place while Howard was struggling mightily earlier in the year. But the numbers speak for themselves. The guy is a former rookie of the year and MVP, but he didn’t get as much as a sniff from the fans when it comes to the All-Star voting.

Howard won’t be alone in sitting out the Mid-Summer Classic. Pat Burrell isn’t going either.

Burrell was one of the players eligible for the ridiculous final roster spot that is determined by Internet voting. He lost out to Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Corey Hart. Burrell finished third. He shouldn’t feel too badly about it. Burrell is having a solid year. But this idea of people sitting in front of computers constantly punching in online votes for their favorite is a sham.

Howard is another story. He actually still could make the team. Starter Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs has been scratched because of an injury. NL All-Star Manager Clint Hurdle of the Rockies already has inserted his own left-fielder Matt Holliday in the starting lineup, but there’s still an opening on the NL All-Star roster.

Howard deserves that spot. If he does not make it, he will become the first player leading his league in both homers and RBI not to make the team since the same ignominy befell Hank Sauer in 1948

The All-Star voting is questionable enough. The final roster vote is just a joke. There would be nothing funny about Howard not making the team.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 10

The Daily Numbers: 82 million reasons to smile for newest Sixer Elton Brand, who signed a big-bucks deal to be the force the team has long needed in the low post.

2 men being labeled as “persons of interest” who state police would like to talk to in connection with a series of “skimming” incidents at gas pumps at some local Wawas.

200 people who packed a union hall Wednesday night to hear a couple of local unions give their endorsement to Nick Micarelli, the GOP candidate to succeed Ron Raymond in the 162nd State House legislative race. The Democrat, John DeFrancisco, is a former head of one of the unions.

5 contestants eliminated last night as that harbinger of summer, the Delco Idol competition, kicked off at Media Theatre. Twenty five remain. Five will be eliminated each Wednesday until the finals, when the remaining 10 will seek the crown.

2 police officers in Upper Darby who suffered injuries in a scuffle that broke out when they tried to arrest a group of juveniles.

35 billion dollar deal for a new tanker that Boeing is now back in the running for after it was revealed yesterday that bids would be resubmitted for the Air Force project. First Boeing was awarded the deal, then had it taken away. Now Boeing will get another shot at it, vs. Northrop Grumman.

1,900 dollar fine the city of Philadelphia wants to impose on those who fail to report a lost or stolen handgun.

1,449,634 population of Philadelphia in the latest census figures. That’s good for sixth place as the city continues to lose residents.

0.4 uptick in population in Delaware County, according to the new numbers. Compare that with Chester County, where population jumped 12 percent.

0 service from SEPTA on the Thorndale-Paoli line this morning. There’s no service between Thorndale and Paoli inbound into the city, because of wire problems.

65 age of man who police say was gunned down in Reading in an argument over a parking place.

14 age of female student sexually assaulted by a 28-year-old teacher in Bethlehem. The woman pleaded guilty yesterday to taking the student to her home and assaulting her.

3 students at Moorestown High School who have died this year. A 17-year-old recent graduate was killed when his bike collided with a car. In December 2 other students died in car crashes.

4 people shot overnight in Wilmington on Concord Avenue. Police say no one is coming forward with any information on the shootings. None of the shootings was fatal.

4 people, 3 adults and a juvenile, charged in a series of holdups of Sunoco mini-marts and 7-Eleven stores in Philadelphia.

44 to 39 edge for Barack Obama over John McCain in New Jersey, according to a new Rasmussen poll. That’s down from Obama’s margin of 9 points last month.

1 penny increase in the pain at the pump overnight, with gas now going for an average of $4.16.

1.25 million dollars in overtime costs that Chester County will now have to pay a group of prison guards who filed suit.

1,000 cases of salmonella now being investigated, with new focus being put on fresh peppers.

6 strong innings for starter J.A. Happ last night as the Phils snapped their 4-game losing streak.

25 home runs for Ryan Howard, who belted the game-winner in the eighth inning last night.

80 RBIs for Ryan Howard, that’s tops in the National League. He’s now tied with teammate Chase Utley for the home run lead.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Happ-y days are here again. The Phillies break their losing streak while getting another solid outing from emergency starter J.A. Happ, and the Sixers steal the spotlight with the signing of the top free agent in the NBA market, Elton Brand.
I Don’t Get It: A man was shot to death during an argument in Reading. And what were they quarreling over, according to police? A parking spot. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Very good news for Boeing as they will get a mulligan in getting to rebid on a huge $35 billion deal to build a new tanker for the Air Force.

Quote Box: “I only use cash when I go to gas stations. It’s a lot quicker to use a card, but it’s too risky.”

-- Howard Blaylock of Norwood, in the wake of a skimming outbreak in which con artists are ripping off credit card info at the gas pumps.

Shields gunning for new city restrictions

It might not exactly be the shootout at the OK Corral, but C. Scott Shields has the city of Philadelphia in his crosshairs again.

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Nutter announced the city would move ahead with enforcement of a new ordinance targeting those those who fail to report a lost or stolen handgun. Those who fail to do so are looking at a fairly stiff fine, a cool $1,900. But not if Shields get his way.

This comes despite the recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that recognized the right of citizens to own a gun for their personal use.

Nutter is interpreting that ruling as leaving some “wiggle room” for cities to impose some restrictions on gun ownership, even while the high court was knocking down the District of Columbia’s 32-year-old handgun ban.

Obviously Shields, a Delaware County lawyer who’s no stranger to taking controversial stands, sees it a bit differently. Shields represents the National Rifle Association.

They take a fairly dim view of the recent move by Nutter and the Philadelphia City Council to enact a series of gun restrictions. They immediately went to court and got several of them put on ice.

Shields vows he will be back in court to seek a temporary injunction to block the new provision on reporting. It’s the NRA’s position that council has no authority to implement such laws, that gun matters are the sole province of the state Legislature.

“If we don’t get a stay ... the city will be faced with a civil rights suit,” Shields said.

“If you lose your piece, call the police,” was the word yesterday from Mayor Nutter.

Maybe they should stand back to back, take 10 paces, and then let the subpoenas fly.

One thing you can count on, this one will wind up in court.

'Brand' name a new game for Sixers

Excuse us if we drool awhile over the Sixers’ signing of Elton Brand.

Yes, most fans are ecstatic that the team stepped up big time and signed the top free agent on the market.

But for people who do what I do for a living, there’s another reason to react to the signing with glee. It’s his name. Brand. Yes, it’s a headline writer’s dream.

Let’s see, we’ve already used several of them, including a “Brand” new era for the Sixers, “Brand-oh,” “Name Brand,” and the list goes on. It might take us a while to use all these.

Then there’s his first name. Elton, like the singer’s. Hence the hed on our game story inside the paper today: “Elton and Philly, a circle of love?” Get it? Elton John? Circle of love?

It’s enough to bring a smile to a crusty old editor’s face.

But the reality is there’s another reason to smile for Philly fans today. Did you catch any of the Elton Brand show yesterday? The guy was magnificent.

He was dressed impeccably, spoke about his reasons for coming to the city, about how he wants to win a championship, about his health (he’s coming off an Achilles heel injury that sidelined him much of last season), and about those who think the Sixers should have taken a younger player such as Atlanta’s Josh Smith. He’s even got a good sense of humor.

It’s a huge step ahead for the Sixers and puts them in position to contend with Boston and Detroit in the Eastern Conference. It also puts them back in the spotlight in terms of Philly sports. This team is now going to be talked about. They no longer will be an afterthought. They will be right there on the Back Page, battling with the Eagles, Flyers and Phillies for the fans’ attention.

If anything, it’s amazing how quickly the sands shift in Philly sports. The Eagles just might be on the bottom looking up as they head to camp in a couple of weeks.

And one other thing. All of this Sixers’ hoopla has its roots right here in Delaware County.

It became clear soon after Ed Stefanski joined the team as their GM that he had a plan. Yesterday, he executed it perfectly.

Stefanski was looking for a “Brand” name to improve the Sixers fortunes, to provide the kind of low-post presence this team has lacked forever.

Yesterday he delivered the goods.

Yep, it’s a “Brand” new era for the Sixers.

Happ-y Days here again for Phils

Happ-y days are here again for the Phillies. For a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, they won last night, beating the Cardinals 4-2 to snap a four-game losing skid.

They also got another solid outing from fill-in starter J.A. Happ. The lefty called up to fill the fairly big shoes of troubled starter Brett Myers gave the Phils six and a third solid innings, giving up just two runs on five hits. More importantly, he kept the Cards off the scoreboard and allowed the Phils to actually get a lead for a change. Happ didn’t get the win, but he did his job.

There’s another reason for smiles in Phillies land this morning. This group desperately needs someone to put this team on his shoulders and lead them out of their offensive malaise. Looks like maybe Ryan Howard just might be the guy.

Howard, who actually tried to bunt to get something going Tuesday night, last night crushed his 25th home run of the season in the eighth to answer back after the Cardinals had tied the game.

Howard now stands even with teammate Chase Utley for the NL lead in homers. He sits atop the RBI race with 80. He singled earlier in the game to drive in a run. That’s important for another reason else as well. Howard is starting to make contact, not just hitting home runs, as is evidenced by his single earlier in the game.

If Howard gets hot, he could be the guy to break the Phils out of their offensive doldrums.

Let’s call it Ryan’s hope, and the Phillies as well.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 9

The Daily Numbers: 9.7 billion dollar education budget signed by Gov. Ed Rendell at Upper Darby High School yesterday.

274 million dollar increase in education subsidies included in the budget.

22 percent hike in funds for Upper Darby School District under the plan, biggest in the region.

3 percent hike, the minimum that every district will get. Other big winners in Delco are Southeast Delco, William Penn and Chester Upland

15 bucks, the amount of a parking ticket that sparked an encounter in which an Upper Darby meter maid got beat up. Two people now face charges.

25 bucks, cost of a magnetic car reader known as a skimming device found on some gas pumps at local Wawas. Police believe two men used such devices to get info and then ring up thousands in illegal charges on credit cards.

5 wounded in overnight violence when shooting erupted at a dice game in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia overnight.

9 days, how long the intersection of 63rd and Market in West Philly will be shut down, starting Friday night, as part of the seemingly endless El reconstruction project.

15 bucks now being slapped on customers for the first checked bag by US Airways. The second will set you back $25.

22 months old, age of tot who rode his tricycle off the second-story roof of his home in Reading. The youngster has died of his injuries.

10,000 dollar reward being offered for information in the fatal shooting of two people in their home in Coatesville.

3 year-old killed by a lethal dose of a prescription drug, according to Philadelphia police.

60,000 dollars believed ripped off by a Media man charged in a scam in which police say he hid his criminal past to get work as a court-appointed sentencing consultant.

200 miles, how far a new aircraft being developed by Boeing in Ridley will be able to go without refueling. It consists of a blimp-like device with rotors.

3 hits surrendered by Phils starter Cole Hamels last night. Unfortunately 2 of them were homers as the Phils lost, 2-0, to the Cardinals in the first game of their series.

6 hits, but zero runs for the Phils, who seemed to hit into a double-play every time they got something going.

6 times the Phils now have been shut out this year.

4 straight losses for the Phils, who are barely managing to hand on to a lead over the Marlins and hard-charging Mets.

82 million bucks, what the Sixers are ready to drop in the lap of Elton Brand, the biggest free agent on the NBA market. The team is expected to announce they’ve bagged the star today.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Sixers have gone out and gotten a “Brand” name free agent, forward Elton Brand. It’s a bold move, one that says the Sixers mean business and want to win now. Wouldn’t it be nice if Pat “King of the B List” Gillick and the Phillies adopted the same philosophy?
I Don’t Get It: Want another sign that the economy is in a shambles. Many shore merchants were in a panic because they were unable to get as many foreign workers into the country to fill their essential seasonal jobs. Not to worry. They are being snapped up by American workers looking to simply make ends meet.

Today’s Upper: It was a big day for education in Delaware County and the state yesterday, as Gov. Ed Rendell came to Upper Darby High School to sign his new education budget, which provides a huge new funding stream for schools.

Quote Box: “With no regard for his own life, he just kicked the door in to save his family. He was a hero, a superhero.”

-- Baron Lane, talking about his brother Eddie, who died when entered his burning home in an attempt to save his girlfriend and her daughter. All three perished.

It's dangerous out there

Another day, another bizarre incident involving a car in Upper Darby. Maybe it’s something in the water.

Last week it involved a cab driver. He was apparently ticked after he became one of many to have his ride towed out of a lot on 69th Street. The cabbie was less than thrilled. Police believe he picked up his ride and tried to exit the tow yard without paying. Now he’s charged with trying to run down the lot attendant. Never a good idea.

This week it was a meter maid who found herself on the receiving end of a driver who was less than thrilled with the way she went about her job.

Police say the meter maid got involved in an altercation with a young couple after ticketing their car on Ludlow Street Saturday.

Kalliopi Maroulis was doing her job, and apparently even asked the offender to simply move her car. When she refused, Maroulis whipped out her book and began writing a $15 parking ticket.

Police say a woman inside the car, identified as Ashley Dacons, then struck her with the door and punched her in the face. And that’s not all. About that time her boyfriend, Dijon Prince, came out of the bank. He tried to break up the fracas but ended up in the middle, according to police.

Maroulis suffered a broken wrist and other injuries in the attack. Police arrested the couple a short distance away.

Which reminds us of the line at the end of roll call in the TV series “Hill Street Blues:” Let’s be careful out there.

A towing company attendant, then a meter maid. What’s next? Good thing school’s out, somebody might go after a crossing guard.

Defining a hero

We sometimes throw the word “hero” around pretty loosely in the newspaper business.

Not in the case of Eddie Lane.

Webster’s defines a hero as “a man of great courage and nobility.”

Kind of defines what Lane did Sunday night.

Lane received a phone call from friends telling him his house was on fire. A bit earlier he had dropped off his girlfriend and her daughter at the house.

He quickly went to the scene, only to see the house in flames. He never hesitated. Lane literally kicked in the front door and burst inside in a doomed effort to rescue Shanae Bailey and little Anaija Bailey.

None of them made it out alive.

Yesterday, his brother described what Eddie Lane as a “hero, a superhero.”

He’ll get no argument from us.

A memorial fund has been set up for the family. Donations can be made to the Edward Charles Swain-Lane Memorial Fund, c/0 Sun East Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 2231, 4500 Pennell Road, Aston, PA 19014.

Phiils could use a 'Brand' name

It’s come down to this for the “B List” Phils.

Last night slugger Ryan Howard, the reigning league MVP, tried to lay down a bunt late in the game. At least that’s what it looked like. It was kind of hard to tell.

What was not hard to figure out is the offensive malaise that continues to hover over this team, every bit as uncomfortable as the summer haze and humidity that hangs over Citizens Bank Park these days.

Last night the ace of the staff, Cole Hamels, gave up just three hits. He still got beat. It’s a little hard to win when you don’t score any runs and two of the other team’s three hits are home runs. The Phils fell 2-0.

They had plenty of chances, but seemed to hit into a double-play every time they had something going. And don’t even get me started on Carlos Ruiz. The struggling catcher is quickly becoming the poster boy for the team’s struggles. He hit into another rally-killing double play last night.

The Phils are not only watching their once comfortable cushion disappear in the National League East, they also just might be losing their grip on the psyche of the town’s fans. In other words, nice stadium, pleasant night out, enjoyable atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park. Now win something.

While their GM talks about adding “B List” pitchers to help out their struggling staff, their competitors in the NL are making bold moves, indicating they want to win now. It’s a sentiment that burns in the gut of every Phillies fan. It’s apparently not shared by the front office.

First the Brewers went out and bagged CC Sabathia. He forms a fearsome duo at the top of their rotation with Ben Sheets. Yesterday it was the Cubs’ turn. Yesterday they traded with the A’s for Rich Harden. You remember him. He’s the guy who dazzled the Phils on the West Coast last week.

Today the Phils are even in danger of being kicked off the Back Page of the paper in their own town.

The Sixers are expected today to announce they are signing the biggest name on the NBA free agent market. They are about to ink L.A. Clipper Elton Brand to a deal that is supposed to be a tad north of $80 million. It appears new Sixers GM Ed Stefanski carefully crafted a plan of action and implemented it. Now he’s about to bag the best free agent on the board. When’s the last time a Philly pro sports franchise could say that? Maybe the Eagles and their ill-fated tryst with Terrell Owens?

Ah, yes, a “Brand” name. That’s something the Phillies could use these days.

Are you listening, Pat Gillick.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 8

The Daily Numbers: 5 a.m., when fire broke out at a commercial office complex in Edgmont. The blaze has consumed a ReMax real estate office on West Chester Pike and tied up eastbound traffic on the busy commuter corridor.

3 people killed when flames consumed a home in Chester. One of the victims is being hailed for his heroism in going into the burning structure in a failed attempt to rescue a woman and her daughter trapped inside.

2010 that’s when many people believe Pat Meehan, who resigned his post as U.S. Attorney yesterday, will run for governor of Pa.

2 year contract extension for teachers in Ridley Township under an extension of their current deal. Teachers are in line for raises of at least 2.75 percent.

450 teachers covered by the new deal in Ridley, where a teacher with 15 years experience earns $70,875. Starting salary is $39,100.

82 million dollars in new funding for Pa. schools under the budget plan being signed today in Upper Darby by Gov. Ed Rendell.

22 percent hike in funds for Upper Darby School District under the plan, biggest in the region.

100 percent, what U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak scored in a scorecard compiled by the environmental activist group PennEnvironment.

2 men being sought for questioning by state police in a series of “skimming” incidents involving theft of customer information from gas pumps at local Wawas.

1 person wounded when he was shot in the leg following a chase with police in the 1800 block of Bailey Street in North Philadelphia.

0.5 percent dip in revenue passenger miles reported by US Airways in June compared to the same period last year.

33 percent increase in businesses filing for bankruptcy in the U.S. The number could surpass 1 million in a year for the first time since laws were tightened in October 2005.

15 people killed in 289 crashes responded to by state police over the July 4 holiday weekend. Police also made 339 arrests for driving under the influence.

4.15 a gallon, price for gasoline, which holds steady for another day.

10 hits surrendered by Phils starter Adam Eaton last night in dooming the Phils to a loss, despite a stirring rally.

10 to 9, the final margin of the Mets’ win. At one time the Phils were down 8-0.

5.20 Eaton’s less than sterling ERA, after surrendering eight runs, six of them earned, in less than three innings of work.

1.5 game lead for the Phils, as they now find the Marlins on the doorstep and the rejuvenated Mets just two and a half back.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Pat Gillick says he’s looking for a “B List” pitcher to add to the Phillies roster. We deserve better.
I Don’t Get It: A lawyer accused of sexual assault against an elderly woman in Montgomery County is looking to have the charges against his client dismissed. Why? The victim has passed away. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Gov. Ed Rendell today will sign legislation mandating so-called “Fire Safe” cigarettes. We think it’s a good idea, but isn’t that an oxymoron?

Quote Box: “I do not know that the future will hold.”

-- Pat Meehan, in announcing his resignation as U.S. Attorney, amid speculation he could run for governor of Pennsylvania.

A huge day for education in Pa.

Ed Rendell is coming to town today – and he’s bringing with him lots of green.

The governor is not here to promote a new, environmentally friendly program.

Rendell is coming to sign a historic state education funding plan, part of his hard-fought budget proposal. And a cool $82.6 million in additional funds for classrooms.

Rendell will sign the measure during a ceremony tonight at Upper Darby High School.

He’s coming to the right place.

Property taxes, the albatross that hangs around the necks of so many Delaware County homeowners, are a huge issue here. For years the state has retrenched on its efforts to fund education, usually coming up far short of its stated 50 percent goal. The result has been an increasing burden at the local level, usually exacted from an increase in property taxes, the basic building block of education funding in this state.

Rendell’s budget also will utilize a new method of doling out the increased funding, as suggested by a special costing-out study ordered by the state Legislature that put a number on what it should cost a district to provide an adequate education for each child.

The selection of Upper Darby for the signing ceremony is particularly apt – for a couple of reasons. Upper Darby is one of the districts in line to get a huge boost of new funding. For the first time, money will be allocated at least in part according to need. That means that some school districts – Upper Darby among them --- will get more money than some wealthier districts. It will go a long way to even the education funding playing field for needy districts such as William Penn and Southeast Delco as well.

But there’s another reason that I hope was at least in part one of the reasons Rendell is coming to Upper Darby today. I surely hope Rep. Nick Micozzie is there.

No one in the Legislature has been a bigger booster of fixing the flawed system this state uses to fund education than Micozzie, R-163. He even rolled out his own plan, dubbed the Successful Schools model, several years ago. It never had a chance of being approved, but it certainly raised consciousness of the situation.

Micozzie’s plan was not even especially popular with his fellow Republicans, but that did not deter him. He has been a steady voice in calling for reform of the system. And earlier this year he was one of the first to step across party lines and support Rendell’s plan.

Overall, it’s a good day for Upper Darby, and a good day for a lot of kids who are going to be helped by this new spending plan.

Ed Rendell has a lot to do with that. So does Nick Micozzie. But in the end, it’s the kids who will win. Isn’t that what really counts?

What's next for Pat Meehan?

Pat Meehan is returning to his roots – politics.

Before he was the district attorney of Delaware County, and before he was tapped by President George W. Bush to be the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, Meehan used to work for Sen. Arlen Specter. He actually ran one of Specter’s Senate campaigns.

Meehan continued a long-standing tradition in Delaware County, which saw the district attorney usually rising from the deep Republican ranks of Drexel Hill.

He was elected the county D.A. in 1995 and almost immediately burst into the national limelight when he handled the prosecution of eccentric millionaire John du Pont, who was charged with the murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz on his Newtown Square estate. The case made national headlines, with the belief being du Pont at the time may have been the richest man in U.S. history ever to face trial for murder.

Meehan went on to being the top lawman in Eastern Pennsylvania and immediately gained a reputation as a corruption-buster. Again he found himself in the national headlines when a bug was discovered in the office of Philadelphia Mayor John Street just weeks before the election in October 2003. It was believed that backlash from the discovery propelled incumbent Mayor John Street to a big win over Republican Sam Katz.

But Meehan wasn’t done with the Street Administration. His office handled prosecutions of any number of Street confidantes, including the city treasurer and one of Street’s biggest fund-raisers. Street himself was never charged.

Meehan is back in the news, not for what he’s doing, but for something he is no longer going to be doing. And for something he may very well soon be doing.

Meehan, with a presidential election meaning a new boss will take the helm in November, resigned Monday.

The general talk is that Meehan could be a Republican candidate for governor in 2010. Gov. Ed Rendell won’t be able to seek another term.

Republicans could do a lot worse.

Ironically, for someone who has been as high profile as Meehan, he will face the same dilemma as many in the Philadelphia region when they seek statewide office.

Once you hit the Lancaster County line and farther west, has anyone ever heard of them?

Rendell faced that problem – and overcame it – although he also had a national reputation gained during a stint as head of the Democratic National Committee.

Meehan is non-committal, saying he only wants a little time to “decompress” from the rigors of his current position.

Don’t bet against him if he decides to seek the governor’s mansion. He could wind up being the Republican equivalent of Ed Rendell, a guy with a big reputation in southeastern Pennsylvania with his eye on a bigger stage.

B List blues for Phillies fans

Consider if you will the two men at the helm of that wonderful organization we refer to as the Philadelphia Phillies. That would be General Manager Pat Gillick and Manager Charlie Manuel.

As the smoke continues to billow up from the Phils less than stellar home stand in which they dropped three of four to their arch-rival, the Mets, this is how Gillick summed up the chances of the Phils being a player in trade talks as everyone keeps an eye on the July 31 deadline.

“Realistically, we might get a piece. We might not come up with a headline, but might come up with a guy off the B list that could help us.”

Am I the only one who grits his teeth upon hearing such words? Gillick made these comments at the same time the Milwaukee Brewers were finishing off a deal that put Cleveland Indians’ ace CC Sabathia alongside Ben Sheetz in their starting rotation.

And we’re trolling for something off the B list?

Gillick’s comments also came before last night’s game, when he could have seen the wisdom of settling for the B list first-hand. The Phils sent Adam Eaton to the mound, and watched as he got shellacked by the Mets. It only seemed like everything Eaton served up was lined into the gaps or down the line for extra bases.

In his less-than-sterling outing, Eaton went less than three innings. In the process he gave up 10 hits and eight runs, six of them earned. I’m surprised he managed to get eight outs.

That brings us to Charlie Manuel, and his decision to leave Eaton out there when it was apparent he had nothing and was basically serving up batting practice to the Mets. For some reason, Manuel allowed Eaton, already down 5-0, to go back out to start the third, whereupon he gave up three more runs before he got the hook.

That’s important because – and you may not realize this if you bailed out when the Phils were down 8-0 in the third – the Phils actually put up a huge rally, only to fall short. They lost 9-8.

If only Manuel had seen fit to go get Eaton earlier, the Phils might be looking at a split in this crucial series. Instead, they managed to pump life into a clearly struggling Mets organization.

The Phils’ lead is now just a half-game over the Marlins and a game and a half over the resurgent Mets.

And one other oddity from the manager’s “Manuel:” Charlie lifted Chase Utley late in the game for Eric Bruntlett. Utley had hit his league-leading 25th homer of the year to get the Phils on the board in the fourth. But he wasn’t there at the end of the game.

B List talk from the general manager, and B List moves from the manager.

Funny, they never accept B List for admission to the park, or for those overpriced concessions, or for the gear that seems to adorn every fan who enters.

We deserve better than the B List. It’s time for Gillick and Mauel to start delivering.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 7

The Daily Numbers: 3 people killed when flames consumed a home on the 2300 block of West Third Street in Chester last night.

1 hero who lost his life in the flames, when a man apparently dashed inside the house in an attempt to save the lives of a mother and her daughter trapped inside.

34 age of Christopher Anderson, also known as “Sprout,” the would-be rock musician who police filed child porn charges against.

120 foot-high monopole cell phone tower that is causing no small amount of angst in Brookhaven.

4 percent hike in spending in Pennsylvania’s new budget that has some legislators worrying about a deficit and tax hike down the road.

20 percent rate hike that could be facing electricity customers in the region as rate caps in Pa. expire.

15 times in the last 17 weeks that we have set a new record high for gas prices.

1.15 more we’re paying for gasoline than we did last year at the July 4 holiday.

2 ramps on the Commodore Barry Bridge that will provide access of Route 291 from I-95. Construction begins today.

2 people found dead in Coatesville in what police are describing as a double homicide.

137 million dollars being paid by Coca Cola Co. to settle a shareholder lawsuit that claimed the company misrepresented information.

20 percent dip in homicides in Philadelphia, part of a 6 percent dip in violent crime, as Mayor Nutter pushes programs to make the city safer.

7 hours and change, how long it took to decide the Phils-Mets game yesterday, including a 3-hour rain delay.

2 run homer in the 9th by Jayson Werth to tie the game. But the Phils fell in 12.

37 million dollar contract extension for Phils closer Brad Lidge.

2 All-Stars for the Phils. Chase Utley was the top vote-getter and will start at second base, while Lidge also made the squad. Pat Burrell could still be added.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
That new deal for closer Brad Lidge should have raised the eyebrows on Brett Myers as he toils at Lehigh Valley. That means Lidge is not going anywhere. Maybe Myers is?
I Don’t Get It: While the rest of the state has implemented slots parlors and is already reaping the benefits, the bickering about location goes on unabated in Philly. Two sites have been selected along the riverfront. Community groups don’t like them. Let’s get this thing settled. We could use that revenue.

Today’s Upper: Mother Nature did her best, but could not drown out July 4 festivities across the county.

Quote Box: “As a sports fan, you’re afraid to have that opinion or even entertain the idea that games are fixed.”

-- Radio personality Anthony Gargano, talking about the case of disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy and the betting scandal that will wind up with sentencings this week.

Tragedy in Chester

I thought we might actually make it. I thought we might get through a long holiday weekend without a major breaking story, usually one that is not exactly emblematic of the weekend revelry.

I was thinking to myself as I drove into the office early this morning just that, how calm things seemed to have been this weekend.

No fatal shootings. No horrific holiday car crashes. No fireworks mishaps that too often put a damper on the July 4 holiday festivities.

Things had been eerily quiet over the weekend. For a cynical newspaper editor, it seemed like things were almost too quiet.

I was right. Heartbreakingly right.

I got the word just after I arrived at the office this morning. There was a fire in Chester. It would turn out to be every bit as horrendous as I feared.

Three people were killed, including a mother and her young daughter.

They had apparently been dropped off at the home on the 2300 block of West Third Street late last night. A few minutes later the boyfriend got a call on his cell phone. It was from the woman he had just dropped off. The house was filling up with smoke.

The man raced back to the now-burning structure. Heroically, he went inside looking for the woman and her daughter.

All three perished in the inferno.

We posted a story on our Web site early this morning. We will update the story all day, and have full coverage in the print edition tomorrow.

And I wish we didn’t have to do any of it. We almost made it through the holiday weekend.

Almost. Now it’s back to the real world.

Life in the fast lane with Ed Rendell

Looks like Ed Rendell hasn’t lost his touch.

They said the state would never elect a Democratic former mayor of Philadelphia to statewide office. How did that one turn out?

Then he got a lot of foes in the middle of the state to join his crusade to push through a huge expansion of legalized gambling to provide money for property tax relief. The slots have been jingling, at Harrah’s in Chester and a slew of other locations across the state, ever since.

Last week we got another taste of “Fast Eddie” at work. It looked like his call for a huge infusion in new education spending by the state was in danger of foundering in the annual budget stalemate in Harrisburg.

So there was Rendell signing the new budget on Saturday, even if it did come a few days after the deadline. And yes, it does contain most of the education funding Rendell was seeking.

Now there is the small matter of leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Rendell wants to do it to raise money for the state’s crumbling infrastructure, roads and bridges. Right now the bill is bottled up in a state committee, and the chairman is vowing the measure will never see the light of day, let alone a vote by either the committee or the full House.

Anyone want to bet against Rendell?

For Phils, a long day's journey into night

There were a lot of developments on the Phillies front yesterday. Let’s wade through them.

First off, I have to admit I didn’t stay with the game after they enetered a rain delay. So yes, I missed the thrilling two-run homer by Jayson Werth to tie the game with two outs in the ninth inning.

But that’s not the least of it. Imagine my surprise when I flipped on the radio again a little after 8 p.m. Lo and behold, what did my ears hear, but the dulcet tones of Scott Franzke. I thought maybe they were doing a replay of the game. Turns out they were still playing, in the 12th inning.

So of course as soon as I check back on the game, things take a turn for the worse. Fernando Tatis took Chad Durbin out of the park to stake the Mets to a 4-2 lead. That would be the final.

But there were lots of other interesting developments on the Phils’ front yesterday. Chase Utley is an All-Star. So is Brad Lidge. Pat Burrell is not, at least not yet.

Utley will start at second base for the National League, on the basis of being the top vote-getter in fan balloting. Lidge was named to the pitching staff. Burrell didn’t make the squad, but still could wind up at Yankee Stadium in a few weeks. He’s on the list of players vying for the final roster spot, which will be decided by Internet voting.

It was a big day for Lidge, who earlier in the day signed a three-year extension worth a guaranteed $37.5 million.

Which likely came as something of an eye-opener for the recently demoted Brett Myers. The guy who opened the season as the Phils No. 1 starter has made it pretty clear that he would prefer to be the closer. Doesn’t look like that is going to happen now.

Of course, there is still one more scenario. Setup man Tom Gordon was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday. Maybe Myers could find his niche there. Or maybe he’ll be used as bait at the trade deadline to get the team more pitching help, either a front-line start to complement Cole Hamels, or another left-handed arm in the bullpen.

At any rate, it was a long, eventful day for the Phils. The game started at 1:30, and didn’t end until about 8:30.

The two teams will tee it up one more time tonight at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils need a win. They don’t want to lose another series, this one at home. And they especially don’t want to lose another series to the hated Mets.

The Phils spent much of last year chasing the Mets. Now they’re getting a taste of what it feels like to be the hunted party.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 3

The Daily Numbers: 113 the SEPTA bus that struck and killed a man at the Darby bus terminal last night.

3,000 bucks, what the D.A.’s office says a Sharon Hill insurance agent ripped off from his clients.

655 million dollars that could be saved in electricity and fuel under a program awaiting approval in Harrisburg.

2 years in prison, what Jocelyn Kirsch is likely looking at. The female half of the infamous Philly ‘Bonnie & Clyde” ID theft duo reported to jail yesterday to get a head start on her stint.

9 slaves owned by Thomas Jefferson who will be honored today on Independence Mall as part of July 4th activities in Philly.

3 Philly historic tour guides who have filed suit against the city to fight a plan that would make guides take a test to judge their knowledge of the sites and history they are detailing for visitors.

22 month old boy who apparently rode his tricycle off the second-floor roof of his home in Reading. He is hospitalized.

51 years in addition to a life sentence for a New Jersey man in the brutal slaying of a woman in the yard of her Evesham Township home.

5 people poisoned, including 1 death, in New Jersey stemming from people confusing tiki torch oil with apple juice. The containers are very similar.

1 person dead and another wounded in the Frankford section of Philadelphia in what police are calling an attempted murder-suicide. The man is believed to have fired a shot at the female, then took his own life. She survived.

150 feet down a ravine, what a climber fell in Chester County Wednesday night. The teen was rescued from the steep ravine in French Creek State Park.

29 age of mother in Delaware who is charged with beating her 4-year-old son with a fly swatter.

4.15 a gallon, price for gasoline, which holds steady for another day.

5 straight wins for the Phils over the Braves, after last night’s 7-3 victory.

5 innings for Brett Myers last night as the starter for AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He gave up 3 runs in a 5-3 loss.

.343 what Ryan Howard is hitting against the Braves, including homer No. 21 last night. Pat Burrell also blasted No. 21 as the Phils’ offense continues to show signs of a rebirth.

2:09:60 time for Brendan Hansen in the 200-meter breaststroke. He took the prelim and qualified for tonight’s final.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
There’s a lot of ways this whole Brett Myers thing could turn out. Unfortunately none of them are especially appealing to the Phils. Here’s the nut: Myers wants to close, but that spot is currently being filled more than ably by Brad Lidge. Myers admits his head is not into being a starter right now, and has not been since he got his taste of closing last year.
I Don’t Get It: Can we now put away the pictures of Jocelyn Kirsch in all her glitzy get-ups and hot bikinis. Maybe the feds will release a pic of her in her new duds, as a prisoner in a federal jail.

Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for three-day weekends. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this weekend we mark our Independence, and a lot of men and women are far away in harm’s way fighting to make sure it stays that way.

Quote Box: “His deceit continues to this day.”

-- Federal prosecutor Faith Taylor, talking about the record of Sean O’Neill Sr.

Not everyone is free today

It seems fitting as we prepare to celebrate out independence that two stories in the news involve people doing just the opposite.

Jocelyn Kirsch is actually celebrating her first day behind bars today. You probably know her better as “Bonnie.” She’s half of the jet-setting young Philly duo dubbed “Bonnie & Clyde” after they became the focus of an upscale ID theft ring.

Today “Bonnie” is likely not so bonny.

Yesterday she turned herself in to U.S. Marshals, trying to get a head start on the jail time that’s coming her way on the charges that she ripped off friends and acquaintances to fuel her high-profile lifestyle, along with her beau, Edward Anderton. Their images, in particular hers, in an array of bikinis and designer dresses and in a variety of exotic locales, have been splashed all over the papers incessantly.

She looked a little different yesterday as she hustled into the federal courthouse in a pair of black sweatpants and gray hoodie, with her hair pulled up in a beehive on top of her head. Nowhere in sight were the luxurious hair extensions, worth thousands, authorities say she purchased with a stolen credit card.

He’s already entered a guilty plea in the case. She is likely to do likewise.

While the media gushed over the daring duo and slapped the “Bonnie & Clyde” moniker on them, U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan was calling them something else. He referred to them as “the poster children for identity theft.”

Not far away in the same federal courthouse, a big crowd showed up for a bail hearing.

Most of the time these are fairly routine matters. But this is not a routine case.

This hearing was for Sean O’Neill Sr., the former owner of Maggie O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Drexel Hill. He’s been in federal detention since last Friday, when the feds raided his sprawling Edgmont estate and charged him with immigration and weapons offenses.

The feds also are alleging O’Neill has ties to the Irish Republican Army, and that he lied about his membership in an Irish youth group with ties to the IRA when he applied for a green card in the U.S.

The feds had their shot when they filed the charges. Yesterday, it was O’Neill’s supporters’ turn. They painted a much different picture.

Friends and relatives offered support for O’Neill, whose lawyer pointed out to the judge that his client was a successful builder and very active in the community. All of this was being used as a basis to sway the judge to set bail for O’Neill, to indicate he was not a threat to flee. The judge didn’t see it that way, and declined to issue bail. O’Neill will remain in federal custody.

Among those in the courtroom was O’Neill’s son, Sean Jr. He is enjoying his first bit of freedom himself, having just last week won his release from a juvenile facility in western Pennsylvania where he was doing time in connection with the shooting death of his friend. The two, both students at Cardinal O’Hara at the time, had spent a day of drinking and carousing back in 2006. When they all wound up back at the O’Neill estate, the younger O’Neill pointed a gun at his pal and it went off, killing him.

There obviously will be split feelings among the O’Neill clan this holiday. They will be celebrating freedom for Sean Jr., while lamenting the same is not true for his father, who remains in jail.

Freedom from our cars

Somehow I don’t think this is going to come as startling news to most readers.

With the arrival of a three-day Independence Day holiday, most people will try to celebrate a little different kind of freedom – freedom from their cars.

A new report from AAA indicates a lot fewer people are planning to drive this holiday. It’s a repeat of a trend they noticed with the Memorial Day.

Gee, I wonder why? Yep, you guessed it. A lot of people are struggling to pay for gas, along with most other items, such as food, utilities and the mortgage and/or rent payments.

AAA says that in the five-county Philadelphia region, 519,000 residents indicate they plan to travel 50 miles or more from their homes this holiday weekend.

That’s down 1.6 percent from last year.

“This is the first time this decade AAA is projecting a decline in Fourth of July travel,” said Cathy Rossi, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

In the meantime, the price at the pump is holding steady – at least for now – at $4.15 a gallon. That’s the average price in the Philly region. Diesel is going for a steep $4.99 a gallon.

But there’s more bad news on the horizon. The price of crude continues to go up. This morning it’s trading at about $142 a barrel.

For some reason the increases in the price of crude seem to show up at the pump a lot faster than when the price is going down.

Stay tuned. I’ll probably be able to write this item again on Labor Day, when we hit the trifecta for declines in summer holiday travel.

The Myers' dilemma

While his teammates were busy clobbering Atlanta for the second straight night, Brett Myers was about 1,000 miles away, taking the hill for the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Some might say Myers’ head was even farther away.

Here’s the problem the Phillies face with the guy they sent to the mound on opening day as the co-called ace of their staff: Myers no longer wants to be a starter. He as much as admits his head is no longer into being a starting pitcher.

Some might argue Myers’ head is – and too often has been –somewhere else entirely.

That won’t change the dilemma facing the Phils. They made the decision in the off-season to move Myers back into the starting rotation. In a move I guess to thank him for bailing them out last year when he went to the bullpen and became the team’s closer, they made him their Opening Day starter, despite the belief by most that Cole Hamels is the team’s real starting stud.

In the off-season the Phils had added another element to the mix by acquiring another closer to fill the role that Myers performed so well last year, including recording the memorable last out on the final day of the regular season as the Phils won the National League East. Signing Brad Lidge was a gamble, but only now is it apparent that the bigger gamble the Phils took had more to do with Myers than Lidge.

Lidge was coming off knee surgery as well as a bit of a psychological funk. Some said he was not the same pitcher after being taken “yard” by Albert Pujols in a key playoff game the year before, leading to the Cardinals’ win over the Astros.

As it turns out, Lidge has been all the Phils could have expected and more. He was back on the mound last night and survived a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to seal the deal.

The problem hasn’t been with Lidge; it’s with Myers. He clearly no longer has any desire to be a starter. His head is still in the bullpen, in that adrenaline rush of being a closer. But Lidge is standing in the way.

The Phils now have several decisions to make, none of them easy. Should they offer a new deal to Lidge? And if they do what does that mean for Myers?

The Phils are hoping Myers can fix whatever ails him, either with his mechanics or between his shoulder blades, and get back in their rotation in a few weeks, maybe even before the All-Star break.

Which is fine except for one thing: That’s not what Myers wants to do. He wants to be a closer.

He may have to find another town to do it in.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 2

The Daily Numbers: 2 alarm blaze that roared through a house in Chester last night, forcing the residents to flee for their lives. They escaped unharmed, but lost all their belongings.

3 percent bump in state funding for every school district in the state under the budget plan cut in Harrisburg. But it’s likely that many needy districts in Delco will get much more.

2,200 worth of lingerie believed ripped off from the Victoria’s Secret store in Granite Run Mall. Yesterday 2 of the 4 suspects waived their hearings.

9 out of 10, where Philly ranks in a survey of unsafe drivers by Allstate Insurance Co. That means we’re among the worse, not the safest.

600 Starbucks stores that will be closed by the coffee giant. They operate 15 stores in Delco. It’s not yet known if any local outlets will be closing their doors.

4 people charged in Philadelphia in connection with another operation to get bogus temporary auto tags. Two Philadelphia auto dealers were among those caught.

60 dangerous yo-yo waterballs discovered being given away as prizes by stores on the Wildwood boardwalk by inspectors.

4,000 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 56th Stryker Brigade in Northeast Philly notified they will be called up to Iraq later this year.

35 percent of respondents in a recent poll who believe we should stay in Iraq until the mission in complete. Another 24 percent were in favor of withdrawing the troops immediately.

4,300 white-collar union workers in Philly who authorized their leadership to call a strike if talks do not progress toward a new contract. Their old deal expired June 30.

417,000 Pa. households that are in line for property tax and rent rebates. The average check comes to $489.

1 penny dip in the price of gas in the region yesterday. A gallon of regular now sets you back $4.15. Diesel is still at $4.99

8 days so fare this summer where the temperare has hit 90 degrees. We could make it 9 on Thursday.

3 wins and 9 losses to go with a 5.84 ERA for Brett Myers, which earned him a demotion to Lehigh Valley.

1.5 game lead for the Phils over the Marlins after they posted an 8-3 win over the Braves last night.

4 RBIs on 2 hits, one of them a home run, for Shane Victorino.

8 wins against 3 losses for last night’s starter, Kyle Kendrick.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Here’s a thought. Maybe the Phils can find some mad doctor somewhere to transplant Kyle Kendrick’s brain into Brett Myers’ head. That would be the makings of an awesome pitcher.
I Don’t Get It: Aaron McKie is the target of an ugly flier in the Gladwyne neighborhood where he wants to move in. Fliers seeking to prevent the former Sixers star from joining the Main Line neighborhood popped up after his recent arrest for lying on forms to buy a gun. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: We all love fireworks, especially at this time of the year. But it’s a good idea to leave the pyrotechnics to the experts. There’s always one person in every neighborhood who thinks he needs to put on a show. Spare us, guys.

Quote Box: “We are talking about a guy who literally worked his way up from parking cars to president.”

-- Dave Coskey, marketing whiz for the Borgata, talking about his boss Larry Mullin, a native of Ridley and a graduate of Cardinal O’Hara High School.

We're No. 1!

When you haven’t won a championship in 25 years, you take your laurels where you can get them.

Still, this is likely one “title” we could probably do without.

We’re apparently lousy drivers. That’s the word from Allstate Insurance Co. and their new nationwide survey on driving and traffic accidents.

Of the 10 large cities studied, we check in at a robust No. 9 when it comes to unsafe driving.

That’s worse than Los Angeles, Chicago and even New York.

The folks at Allstate base this on a finding that indicates we average 6.6 years between fender-benders, which makes us 50 percent more likely to be involved in some kind of road mayhem than those at the national average of 10 years between crashes.

Hey, don’t these people realize we’re hemmed in on all sides by the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Blue Route, Schuylkill Expressway and I-95?

And we have to navigate all these busy thoroughfares while chatting on our hand-held cell phones.

What did they expect?

It’s amazing that they can tell us exactly where we rank in terms of lousy drivers, but no one seems able to synchronize the lights on Baltimore Pike?

Not so grande news at Starbucks

Looking for a sure sign that the economy is in the tank? Starbucks is on the rocks. And we’re not talking ice coffee.

The baron of the brew baristas Tuesday announced a major rollback, including closing 600 stores. It’s also slashing the number of outlets it plans to open.

Starbucks operates 15 outlets in Delaware County. Exactly which of the so-called “underperforming” sites will be shut down was not clear Tuesday.

Guess when people are paying $4 for gas, the $4 latte is where they draw the line.

Doesn’t affect me. I’m always been a Wawa guy. Plain black with a little sugar. I don’t need a grande or some other upscale wording with my morning jolt.

To me, Starbucks always tastes like it’s burned. I guess that’s supposed to be the preferred taste of the Seattle-based afficianados of this strong brew.

I’m just looking for a good cup of Joe at a decent price. Wawa recently hiked the price on their coffee by a nickel. It’s worth every penny.

My wife is a Dunkin’ Donuts addict. To me, since they put the sugar in for you, it’s always a little too sweet. I use it as dessert.

And right now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my morning Wawa run. At just over a buck, you can’t beat it.

Besides, I like the idea of keeping the business local. After all, Wawa has its roots right here in Delaware County.

Call me an uncultured yahoo if you will, but spending much more than $1 for coffee strikes me as an extravagance a lot of people are learning they can live without. Somehow, I think we’ll all survive.

Just don’t start messing with Wawa.

True Brett: Phils feast on NL pitching

Nothing like a little good ol’ National League pitching to cure what ails the Phillies.

The struggling Phils rolled into Atlanta last night after basically getting their head handed to them over the past week and a half by the American League.

So of course the first order of business was to hand Brett Myers his head. Actually the team demoted him to their AAA affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. To his credit, Myers accepted the move. He will be on the mound tonight in Allentown.

Back in Hot-Lanta, the Phillies celebrated their return to National League play by battering somebody named Charlie Morton who started for the Braves.

Shane Victorino led the charge with two hits and four RBIs as the Phils posted an 8-3 win. They also got a solid start from Kyle Kendrick, who clearly did not have great stuff but wriggled out of a number of jams. He’s now 8-3 on the year, albeit with a 4.58 ERA.

If the Phils could somehow merge Kendrick and Myers, maybe transplanting Brett’s arm on Kyle’s body, they’d have themselves a helluva pitcher.

The Phillies are clearly rolling the dice with the Myers move. They really no longer have a place for him in their bullpen. They are gambling that Myers can somehow correct his mechanics in AAA and become the vital No. 2 cog in their rotation this team desperately needs.

In the meantime, the team will announce today who will take Myers’ spot in the rotation. Bet on A.J. Happ, the lefty who has posted some decent numbers with the IronPigs. He’s 5-6 with a .354 ERA.

In the meantime, anytime their starter is not named Cole Hamels, the Phils will need to put up the kind of offensive numbers they posted last night to keep their lead in the NL East.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- July 1

The Daily Numbers: 5 years of board meeting minutes handed over to the FBI by the Chester Upland School District.

58 townhouses and 160 condos, part of a disputed plan for a development called Sentinel Ridge in Marple. A neighbors group has gone to court to block approval for the Pulte Corp. development.

1 child that will have to testify in open court in the molestation case against a psychologist who was employed by the county.

274 million dollar increase in state spending for education under the budget deal between Gov. Ed Rendell and the Legislature.

3.2 percent tax hike included in the Garnet Valley School District budget. For most homeowners that will mean a tax hike of about $80.

4.14 a gallon, the average price of gasoline in the region as we head into the July 4 holiday week. That’s actually down a penny. Diesel stands at $4.98.

142 dollars a barrel for crude oil, where it is trading this morning in Asia.

519,000 residents in the region who say they will travel more than 50 miles for the July 4 weekend, according to AAA. That’s down 1.6 percent from last year. Any guesses why?

6 feet, 3 inches tall, that would be the suspect in an assault and sexual attack on a woman in the lobby of her building in the 1600 block of Pine Street in Philly.

100,000,000 dollars being showered on Princeton by a wealthy alumnus to establish an engineering study that will study energy and the environment.

13 Americans who have been electrocuted in Iraq since September 2003. Now contractors are being asked to inspect facilities for safety hazards.

6 straight years that Philadelphia schools have posted increases in their state PSSA test results.

1 man gunned down Monday afternoon in a Philadelphia home on North Gratz Street.

.5 a half-game lead for the Phils over the Marlins as they head into the second half of the season.

3 games in Atlanta before the Phils head home.

10 games to follow at Citizens Bank Park leading up to the All-Star break. This weekend the Mets are in town.

59.93 the time posted by Havertown star Brendan Hansen in the 100-meter breaststroke, good enough for first place at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials and a trip to the Beijing games.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The Phillies are clinging to first place in the NL East by their fingernails. They have a half-game lead over the Marlins. The good news is that they are now through with the American League teams. We’ll see how they fare now that they are back amid the comfy confines of NL pitching.
I Don’t Get It: Try not to stress out there. It might be killing you. That’s right. A new study says high stress levels can speed age-related declines in the brain by as much as eight years. Not good news for a newspaper editor.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to Gov. Rendell and the Legislature for delivering on the pledge to boost education funding in the state.

Quote Box: “Right now, you know, there can be many a slip between the cup and the lips.”

-- Gov. Ed Rendell, on the budget deal reached with the Legislature in the wee hours of Monday morning.

The Sardella case

All the critics can stop calling now.

They’re the people who call this newspaper every day wanting to know why we are not updating the story involving the Drexel Hill teenager who was charged in connection with the death of her infant son, who was found stuffed in the trunk of a car.

Of course, that would come as something of a surprise to the friends and family of Mia Sardella. I get calls from her supporters every time an item appears in the paper blasting us for our coverage of the sad saga, insisting that we do not know the “real story” behind this tragedy.

Here’s what I do know. We’re not covering up anything. The case involving Sardella is still moving through the pre-trial phase. A trial date has not been set. Her next court date will be July 21 as her attorneys and prosecutors continue to go through their pre-trial maneuvering.

I do not think she is getting special treatment because of who she is, whom she knows, or her family’s status. I’m pretty sure that’s not a terribly popular belief. I know that many readers – in fact some public officials – have indicated there are two systems of justice in this county, one for those with means and one for the rest of us.

Sure, a certain income will likely get you a better defense. But it does not basically alter the case against you.

I don’t know what – if anything – Mia Sardella is guilty of. All I know, and what we have reported, is what she is charged with.

Originally Sardella was charged with first-degree murder in the death of her baby. Those charges have since been reduced to third-degree murder by the district attorney’s office.

Her supporters insist we do not know the real story and are painting a false picture of what happened. There might be a grain of truth in that.

That’s because that’s how the system works. Most of what is learned before a case goes to trial is the version presented by the prosecution, which must show cause as to why the charges were brought and then if there is sufficient reason to go to trial.

The defense’s side of things usually has to wait until a case goes to trial.

In this instance, the limitations are even stricter because of a gag order the judge placed on both sides in the case. That means neither the prosecution, nor the defense can talk about the case or the detailis involved in it.

That does not change the basic assumption that a person is innocent until proved guilty. Mia Sardella has been convicted of nothing to this point.

Someone once said the wheels of justice move slowly. Sardella’s infant boy was found in a duffel bag in the trunk of a car on Jan. 22, 2007.

We will continue to update the case as we get information and as events dictate.

And, I suppose, be criticized by both sides every step of the way.

A new era in education funding in Pa.

Maybe miracles do happen.

Gov. Ed Rendell and the leaders of the Legislature reached a budget deal in the wee hours of the morning early Monday. Or maybe it was late Sunday.

The bottom line? No interruption of state government. No furloughs of state workers. And most of what Rendell wanted in his ambitious spending plan.

That will make people like Janis Risch happy. She’s the executive director of a group called Good Schools Pennsylvania, which has been pushing for increased education funding in the state.

It looks like she – and the governor -- are going to get their wish.

Rendell’s $28 billion dollar spending plan called for increasing education funding in the state by a hefty $2.6 billion over the next six years.

It looks like he is going to get what he wanted, at least most of it.

There will be an immediate infusion of new money for education. Rendell originally was seeking $291 million; it looks like he’s getting $274 million.

That money now will be distributed to local districts according to a formula devised in a recent “costing-out” study of the formula used to fund our schools. While all schools will see an increase in funding, the neediest districts will get more. That’s a clear attempt to level what has for a long time been an uneven playing field when it comes to how much districts can spend to educate their kids.

And it will be music to the ears of needy districts such as William Penn, Southeast Delco, Interboro and Upper Darby here in Delaware County.

Yesterday Risch was smiling.

“From my meetings in Harrisburg I believe that when all the details are finalized, we will see that the governor's education formula was largely preserved in this year's budget - and the proposed appropriations for struggling school districts like William Penn and Upper Darby,” Risch told me in an e-mail. “This would be precedent-setting - using a costing-out approach that actually counts all kids.”

Equally effusive was another longtime activist who sought to change the state education funding formula.

“This is an immense victory for children and schools in Pennsylvania,” said Baruch Kintisch, a spokesman for the Education Law Center, which has been in the forefront of the costing-out study and fixing the education funding riddle in the state.

In my print column on Monday, I joked that Risch was an optimistic warrior in the battle for education funding in Pennsylvania.

She’s been fighting for kids, especially those such as all too many in Delaware County who face an immediate impediment to their education simply because their district is not as well to do as many others, for a long time.

Yesterday, Risch was smiling. And for good reason.

Phils at the halfway point

The Phillies have been safely ensconced in first place since since May 2.

They remain there this morning. By their fingernails.

The Phils enter a three-game series against the Braves in Hot-Lanta with their margin over the Marlins now at a slim half-game. The Phillies come home this weekend for three games against the hated Mets.

Although the All-Star Game remains a few weeks off, the math tells us the season has already blown past the half-way point. The Phils have played 83 games and a just a bit better than mediocre. Literally. They are 44-39, five games over .500.

In the National League, that puts them in first place in the NL East. In the AL, it would put them well back in the pack in all three divisions.

Maybe that’s why they got waxed in the recent interleague play, going just 4-11.

Now it’s back to the comfy confines of the National League, and their little bandbox park. After this set with the Braves, the Phils play 10 straight games before the All-Star break at Citizens Bank Park.

It’s time for some fireworks. And not just the popular post-game shows that light up the skies in South Philly.

The Phils need to make a little noise of their own.