The study Michael Masch did on the Philadelphia School District's finances is grim reading, but then most autopsy reports are.
Masch, Gov. Rendell's budget secretary and a former member of the School Reform Commission, was brought in to examine the books this year after the district suddenly and unexpectedly developed a large deficit.
When a government is spending more than it is taking in, there are only four ways that I know of to remedy the situation.
Philadelphia is a city that celebrated the centennial of its founding seven years before George Washington took up residence on Sixth Street as first president of the United States.
So many questions, so little time.
With the Democratic primary in Philadelphia a mere nine days away, the Ferrick Commission meets for its final plenary session to ponder the imponderables in the race for mayor.
I call them magic-wand moments.
They often came during interviews with the five Democratic candidates for mayor this spring.
Presented with a vexing, hellacious problem the solution of which has eluded the last five mayors, some of the candidates some of the time couldn't resist the impulse:
Imagine a city where citizens are recruited by government to help spot problems, enforce code, and locate potholes needing repair.
Armed with handheld computers, they patrol the streets in teams, tapping in precise information on conditions in their neighborhoods, information shared with city agencies.
The fog machine was on full blast last week when state and local education officials met to discuss discipline - or lack thereof - in Philadelphia's public schools.
I have figured out why we have a record number of candidates running for public office in the May 15 primary election in Philadelphia.
In my role as a full-service columnist, I recently read through the mayoral candidates' issue papers, as posted on their Web sites, and I bring you good news:
Unless he acts and acts soon, the issue of violence and discipline in Philadelphia's public schools is going to be Paul Vallas' Waterloo.
I hopped into a cab the other week to scoot from one meeting to another, made a quick call to check my messages, and tucked my cell phone back into the pocket of my raincoat.
Forget these five other guys running for mayor. Let's pretend for a moment that you decide to run.
In throwing your hat into the ring, you avoid the expansionist "We'll Solve Every Problem" platforms of the other candidates. Instead, you go for frugality.
Light the torches in the Great Hall of Deliberation. The Ferrick Commission is back for its first plenary session of the primary season.
It has come as a revelation to me how much Philadelphians love Philadelphia.
I know that is a startling assertion, given our reputation for relentless negativity, so I want to parse this carefully.
People vote their party. People vote their prejudices. Some people, if you can believe it, even base their vote on the issues.
Tom Ferrick Jr. is a former Inquirer columnist. He now writes for the Next Mayor project.
A Philadelphia native, Ferrick spent decades as a reporter, specializing in government, politics and other human foibles.