Archive: November, 2009
About 45 million turkeys will be consumed today for the greater good, so let us pause to reflect upon one bird that avoided the usual fate.
Her name is Tammy the Turnpike Turkey. She's an 11-pound wild turkey from New Jersey (no, not all wild turkey in the Garden State comes in a bottle).
Tammy lived at the toll plaza at exit 14B of the New Jersey Turnpike. You know - the exit after Bayonne, but before the Holland Tunnel? It's not your usual wild gobbler habitat.
How she got there, nobody knows. It's not clear why she chose the Jersey City toll plaza. Maybe she heard about a stuffing surplus in Secaucus.
Anyway, the toll collectors grew fond of Tammy. They fed her Cracker Jack and sunflower seeds.
Philadelphians have long looked to the Police Department's Civil Affairs officers to defuse unruly confrontations like the street brawl Saturday night in Port Richmond. But that night, an off-duty Civil Affairs cop shot and killed an unarmed 21-year-old.
So how did Civil Affairs Sgt. Frank Tepper - who fired the round that killed aspiring barber William "Billy" Panas Jr. - lose his touch as a peacemaker?
That's a question Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and the District Attorney's Office need to answer quickly. If the inquiry drags on into January, it will be the first major test for freshman District Attorney Seth Williams - who takes over an office that, under Lynne M. Abraham, often was slow to prosecute cops for wrongdoing.
This isn't a case where the usual one to two years should be allowed to lapse before citizens are given a full explanation why an officer resorted to deadly force.
There are just too many troubling questions about the events leading up to Panas' shooting during the 11 p.m. incident outside Tepper's own home on Elkhart Street near Edgemont.
New Jersey is one of seven states with fuzzy eminent domain laws that make it easier to wrongly take people's property. It's a measure the Garden State should clarify, especially in the wake of the fallout from a landmark Connecticut case.
Eminent domain allows governments to take private property and compensate its owners when the result would benefit the greater community. That may sound reasonable, but it isn't when the greater good isn't so clear cut.
A perfect example is the recent announcement that Pfizer Inc. is shutting down a Connecticut facility that became the poster child for the wrong way to apply eminent domain. People were kicked out of their homes to make room for new development, including a hotel, that never occurred.
It all began more than a decade ago when Pfizer announced it wanted to build a $300 million office complex in New London, Conn. The town sought to solidify the deal by promising to redevelop the adjoining Fort Trumball neighborhood, using eminent domain to evict homeowners who wouldn't voluntarily move.
Some property owners proved pretty ornery, however. Seven sued the town and took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Police Department's welcome crackdown on bike safety was launched after two Philadelphia men died from injuries suffered after cyclists hit them last month. The move shows the city is trying to balance the safety needs of motorists, bikers, and pedestrians.
City Council is also getting into the act, with one good measure to boost fines for unsafe cycling and a second silly proposal that calls for registering bikes.
Cars and trucks still pose the greatest risk to pedestrians, but the growth of bicycling has highlighted the dangers from some riders on two wheels.
At the risk of being nicknamed the million-dollar man, Pittsburgh lawyer Templeton Smith Jr. insisted on a costly - and likely fruitless - recount in the close race for a fourth seat on the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
The recount is expected to be completed by tomorrow, with the winner certified next week. Secretary of State Pedro Cortes estimates that the recount could cost taxpayers as much as $1.3 million.
That's a hefty price tag at a time when the state faces budget shortfalls, including cuts at the environmental protection agency and historical sites like the Brandywine Battlefield.
It's makes even less sense since there's little doubt about the outcome of the judicial election. Few votes are outstanding, and the count certainly isn't likely to alter much in the 50 counties that use electronic voting machines.
But Smith insisted upon on the recount and isn't concerned about any public backlash over the cost. In fact, he questions whether it will cost as much as the Democratic Rendell administration says.
One by one, the obstacles to a once-unimaginable overhaul of the nation’s $2.5 trillion health care system are tumbling by the wayside.
The Senate’s deliberation this weekend over its prescription for expanding health insurance coverage to most Americans represents, as President Obama noted, another milestone on the road to health-care reform.
Despite the entrenched and increasingly shrill opposition from congressional Republicans to any and all comprehensive reform, there is growing reason to hold out hope for success.
In predicting on behalf of the GOP that the coming Senate debate will be “a holy war,” veteran Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R., Utah) appears to ignore what most Americans understand about the critical need for reform.
In the wake of another round of indictments alleging corruption in the legislature, Harrisburg is again embracing “reform.”
House Minority Leader Sam Smith (R., Jefferson), whose name appeared frequently in the grand jury’s report despite not being charged, proposed an “ethics officer” to field complaints of misconduct. He also wants rules to bar staffers from campaigning on state time, or using government equipment for campaign work.
Both practices already are illegal — hence the heavy workload of Attorney General Tom Corbett these past two years.
Smith sounded very much like former Democratic House leader Bill DeWeese (D., Unindicted) did 16 months ago. He professed shock and surprise that close colleagues in his party’s leadership, including former Speaker John M. Perzel (R., Phila.), allegedly spent public money illegally on political campaigns right under his nose.
There’s nothing wrong with Smith’s proposal for corrective action, except it doesn’t go far enough. The culture in Harrisburg of blurring the political and the legislative is too pervasive to be changed by new caucus rules, which could expire later. Smith rightly wants to bar government contractors from making campaign donations, but doesn’t touch needed donor limits.
Whatever else you might think of him, Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.<TH>Va.) reached an impressive milestone on Wednesday.
The adopted son of a coal miner became the longest-serving lawmaker ever in the history of Congress: 56 years and 319 days.
Byrd, who is in poor health and turned 92 yesterday, is in his ninth term in the Senate. He has served under 11 presidents, beginning with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.
The record for congressional longevity had belonged to Carl Hayden of Arizona, who served nearly 57 years in the House and Senate from 1912 to 1969. Three years ago, Byrd surpassed the late Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina as the longest-serving senator.