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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: September, 2009

POSTED: Thursday, September 10, 2009, 8:25 AM

President Obama lays out health care goals in speech that tries to balance Democratic and Republican ideas.

Democratic District Attorney candidate Seth Williams addresses students at a new charter school for foster kids.

A father remembers his 14-year-old who was shot and killed, perhaps in a case of mistaken identity.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 5:57 PM

In another example of administration belt-tightening, Budget Director Steve Agostini has been tapped to temporarily oversee stimulus funds provided to the city .

The city originally planned to hire a dedicated "recovery officer" to supervise and report on how the city is spending locally allocated funds from President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package. A job description was posted on the city's online contracting website in June and the city said stimulus funds would be used to pay the salary.

But Agostini said there was concern about whether the available stimulus funds would cover the cost of a hire and noted that many felt that this wasn't the best time to take on a new staffer.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 1:02 PM

City Controller Alan Butkovitz is today sending a letter to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which raises two issues he says the oversight agency should consider as they review the city’s “Plan C” budget.

Butkovitz argues that the city can't zero out funding for the court system in the plan and that the cuts to public safetey are irresponsible. You can read his letter here.

The city’s original budget plan relied on a temporary sales tax increase and some changes to pension payments -- worth $700 million over five years. But both those moves require state approval, which has not been granted. Due to the delay, PICA required the city to submit a backup plan that eliminated those funds.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 12:40 PM

One of City Councilman Jack Kelly's most generous campaign contributors, Ravinder Chawla, was just sentenced in federal court to 30 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release, along with a $25,000 fine, according to Michael Hinkelman of the Daily News.  Chawla was convicted in February along with Chris Wright, Kelly's former chief of staff, and Andy Teitelman, Kelly's one-time campaign manager. 

A federal jury found that Chawla, a real estate developer and Teitelman, his attorney, bribed Wright with a free apartment and legal services in return for help on matters in City Hall.  Chawla's brother, Hardeep, was acquitted.

A line-up of Chawla supporters today asked U.S. District Justice Eduardo Robreno for mercy, citing his generosity toward friends and the unfortunate.  Chawla was seeking community service or home confinement but Robreno said anyone caught "lining the pockets" of a city official was going to jail.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 10:19 AM

So as the city starts preparing for massive cuts and layoffs, what’s going on in Harrisburg? As you probably know, Philly is still waiting to see if legislators will approve budget relief for the city in time to avoid the “Plan C” budget.

We spoke yesterday with Johnna Pro, a spokeswoman for state Rep. Dwight Evans, who said House Democratic leaders and staff spent the Labor Day weekend negotiating with Senate Republicans. The Senate Republicans passed House Bill 1828, which was originally written to deal only with Philadelphia issues, on Aug. 26 after adding sweeping changes to pension plans across the state. That drew rebukes from union leaders, who protested yesterday in the state Capitol.

Pro said separate legislation already exists for the pension reform demanded by Senate Republicans but they chose to combine the issues.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 8:33 AM

The Daily News takes a look at the health care debate, asking if the controversial issue will shape the presidency of Barack Obama the way Sept. 11, 2001 shaped the presidency of George W. Bush.  John Baer says Obama must reassert himself in a speech tonight to a joint session of Congress as "an honest agent of change."

The new school year started for the Philadelphia School District with two new schools and a speech by Obama on how students should shape their own futures.  Ronnie Polaneczky reads between the lines of the president's speech to students for the socialist indoctrination predicted by leaders of the Republican Party.

And the melodrama that is the city's fiscal year 2010 budget woes in Harrisburg enters its 127th chapter with Mayor Nutter again threatening massive layoffs and big-time service cuts while the state General Assembly can't reach agreement on legislation that would prevent all that.

POSTED: Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 4:50 PM

Mayor Nutter this afternoon met with his top staff to talk about how he will continue to implement the Plan C "doomsday" budget this week, as the the city continues to wait for budget relief from state lawmakers.

"This will quite possibly qualify as the most difficult week in any of our respective public service careers," Nutter said to the dozens of top city officials gathered at the Municipal Service Building.

The state House had been scheduled to vote on House Bill 1828 -- which would allow the city to raise the sales tax temporarily and to defer some pension payments -- last Tuesday. But that vote has been delayed due to widespread union complaints over pension amendments tacked on to the bill by the state Senate. The earliest it will happen is now Thursday.

POSTED: Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 12:09 PM

Although today's vote was delayed on House Bill 1828 -- legislation that provides budget relief for Philadelphia, as well as statewide municipal pension changes -- police and firefighters rallied in the state capitol this morning against the bill, the Associated Press reports.

The AP reports that about 300 protested this morning, saying that pension reforms added to the bill by the state Senate would destroy their collective bargaining rights. Bill Gault, president of the Philadelphia fire fighters union, was at the event.

A vote on HB1828 was originally scheduled for today, but was delayed after union lobbying against the bill. The soonest a vote will happen is Thursday.

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
 Follow Chris on Twitter

Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
 Follow Jenny on Twitter.

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