Archive: July, 2009
“In light of other cases like this, it’s difficult to look at the verdict and fully understand the rationale behind the length of the sentence and designated restitution amounts. Nevertheless, a simple, yet important message was reinforced today - - those who abuse the trust of the public, especially elected officials, will be caught and punished.” -- Mayor Nutter, reacting to news that former state Sen. Vince Fumo will spend four and a half years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for his conviction in March on 137 corruption charges.
Nutter appeared to comparing Fumo's sentence, handed down this afternoon, to those of former city Treasurer Corey Kemp, who is serving 10 years in federal prison, and former City Councilman Rick Mariano, who is serving six years in federal prison. Kemp and Mariano were convicted on corruption charges that involved far less money than the Fumo case.
Fumo must also pay a fine of $411,000 and pay restitution of $1.3 million to the state Senate and $676,519 to Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, a non-profit he started.
A group of activists opposed to cuts in city services is outside the Mayor's Office in City Hall right now, protesting the decision to close some public pools. The group, which is still calling itself the Coalition to Save the Libraries after its fight last year on that issue, is now comparing the city to The Valley Club, the Huntingdon Valley swim club thrust into the national spotlight recently for rejecting a group of mostly minority children from a Philadelphia day camp.
The group, including about 50 adults and children waving signs and chanting slogans, gathered around a plastic baby pool filled with toys outside City Hall before coming inside. Two of the children held signs saying "Closing our pools = changing the complexion of our city." That's a reference to an initial statement from the president of the Valley Club, who said the day campers were rejected because "there was a concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion" of the club. He later said that was a terrible choice of words and didn't reflect the safety concerns behind the decision.
Eric Braxton, a long-time Philadelphia activist, took the comparison a bit further in a speech to the protesters. "While we should condemn the Valley swim club, let's recognize that the city of Philadelphia has done the exact same thing to thousands of young people in Philadelphia." Braxton later said accusing the city of discrimination was fair because many of the closed public pools served "poor and working class" neighborhoods.
In this follow-up video, the folks pushing stopPAtaxhike.com ridicule Rendell for calling his proposed 16 percent increase in the state's personal income tax as "modest." Here's the video.
Republicans in the state House have taken to YouTube.com, like Gov. Rendell, to air their views on the state budget stalemate. In the first of two videos, the GOP mocks Rendell's math by claiming he wants to cut $2 billion from a $28 billion budget and wind up spending $29 billion. Here's the video.
Our colleague over at the Inquirer, Angela Couloumbis, has an interesting story today about Gov. Rendell and the General Assembly Republicans posting dueling videos on YouTube.com about their competing versions of the proposed state budget. Up first, Rendell, who says the state Senate Republican budget is not balanced and would require large tax increases in years to come. That, Rendell said, "is the coward's way out." Here's the video.
Former state Sen. Vince Fumo, convicted on 137 federal corruption charges in March, learns his fate today. While that happens, the city is looking into how nearly $40 million in Delaware River Port Authority was spent after Fumo struck a deal. And the future of Fumo's non-profit, Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, is uncertain.
Residents in East Falls are up in arms about a proposed school there for at-risk students.
A judge puts an end to a four-decade desegregation case for the Philadelphia School District.
Nine local hospital executives implored the the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in a "round table discussion" this morning to hold off budget cuts proposed by their Republican colleagues. Nine Democratic senators from the Philadelphia area attended the meeting, which was "facilitated"* by City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. in City Hall.
Dr. Jack Kelly, associate chairman of the emergency department at Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, told nine Democratic Senators from the Philadelphia area that his department gets 90,000 visits a year. He described the potential cuts as akin to asking the Philadelphia Phillies to take the field with five players instead of nine. Kelly also described three cases he dealt with yesterday, a man who crashed his motorcycle, a diabetes patient who ran out of insulin and a little girl hit by a car while running after an ice cream truck.
"It is a medical safety net that is just like fire and police [services]," Kelly explained of the ER department. "This is not just sniffles or someone who has a sore throat. These are major emergencies."
The state Senate Democratic Policy Committee just convened a "round table discussion" this morning in City Hall to discuss potential health care job losses in Pennsylvania, as the contentious state budget battle heats up in the state House today. This morning's discussion in City Council's caucus room plans to examine potential job losses from the elimination in funding proposed by Senate Republicans.
There are now three competing versions of the state budget. Gov. Rendell is calling for a $28.8 billion spending plan that includes a three-year 16 percent increase in the state's personal income tax. That tax increase has not exactly been greeted with open arms in the General Assembly. The Senate Republicans, who control that chamber, have proposed a $27.3 billion plan that calls for making cuts and not raising taxes. The House Republicans, in the minority in that chamber, on Friday proposed their own $27.3 billion budget that calls for tapping the state's Rainy Day Fund, a tax amnesty program and leasing state-owned lands for natural gas drilling.
Rendell and his administration lashed out Friday at the House plan, saying it relies on "devastating cuts" to education and public services, unrealistic tax policy and overestimated land holdings. State Revenue Secretary Stephen Stetler said the Republican plan to bring in $100 million to $200 million in past-due taxes was a "gimmick that is unlikely to work." John Quigley, the acting secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the Republicans call for leasing 390,000 acres for gas drilling when only 225,000 are available.