News & Notes February 6, 2012

I drove into Reading City Hall this morning for a Sen. Casey event.  I had to deal with a double parker on Mineral Spring Road then another right in front of City Hall who decided to pull forward just as I was going around him.  No wonder no one goes into Reading…  I circled around and found a parking space on the street and, foolishly, only brought 4 quarters for the meter thinking that would be enough for an hour.  It bought me forty minutes so I headed home.  You don’t EVER want to get a parking ticket in Reading…  No wonder no one goes into Reading…

Speaking of City Hall, Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer made a classic mistake right off the bat.  He forgot the old homage that you never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.  The Reading Eagle excoriated him yesterday in an editorial for his reneging on a promise for an open and transparent administration.  Right away he issued a policy putting a gag order on all city employees.  No talking to the press means getting nothing but bad press.

Republicans in Harrisburg are discussing having two primaries this year, one in April for federal races and another in July or August for state House and Senate seats.  The Supreme Court decision overturning reapportionment has thrown a huge monkey wrench into the election season.  I know one guy whose thirty minute campaign may be the shortest on record.  Half an hour after he started his campaign the decision came down and he found he was no longer in the district.  Moving a primary to the summer would screw all the candidates out working now getting on the ballot.  

Bill DeWeese remains a free man as the jury remains out in his corruption trial.  Perhaps the loquacious former State House Speaker can teach linguistics and vocabulary while serving his time.

This just in:  DeWeese is guilty on 5 of 6 counts.

State Rep. Mark Cohen, a master of using social media, discovered his primary opponent set up a facebook page so he began asking colleagues why they were friends with her.  It turns out Numa St. Louis had put people on her page without their permission.  That’s a huge gaffe, something you simply don’t do with social media.  Would she also add them as co-sponsors on bills without permission?  She wouldn’t last long in Harrisburg…

Right wing talking heads are saying Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms and so shouldn’t receive funding from the Komen Foundation.  That’s incorrect.  Some PP clinics do do mammograms and rest do breast cancer exams and provide referrals for mammograms.  The head of the Komen Foundation siphons $5 million/year from the “charity” to pad her own pockets before any of it goes to women.  Only 20% of SGK monies go to research.  I guess he needs all that money for her extensive plastic surgery.

Congressman Mark Critz is getting key labor endorsements in his primary runoff against Congressman Jason Altmire.  Republicans put the two incumbents into the same District during reapportionment.  Both are extremely conservative Democrats.  The good news is that one will be out of Washington.

Reading’s Mayor-elect Promises Turnaround

Reading was designated as the poorest city in the country with 53% of its residents now living in poverty.  The City is in Act 47 and has major troubles.  Crime, drugs, racism, sewage being dumped directly into the Schuylkill River, quality of life issues and a lack of code enforcement have combined to give it a bad reputation.  I cannot drive through it without dealing with multiple double parked cars for example.  I’d rather go the long way around Reading than deal with these.

Vaughn Spencer, formerly City Council President, was elected Mayor earlier this month.  He succeeds Tom McMahon whose first term was followed by a remarkably inept second one.  This is a financially starved city which cannot even manage to cash checks.  Employees and services have been cut while money sits around in shoe boxes until the checks grow stale and cannot be redeemed.

While it calls out for strong and smart management I wonder if this new regime is up to the task.  Spencer was on the wrong side of the citywide trash collection issue, sided with a major trash hauler to sell Antietam Lake, an issue which seemed fraught with corruption, and violated open government statutes as City Council President.

He says Reading is about to turn the corner and move ahead but residents are still ashamed to tell others they live here.  He has assembled a transition team of city and county community leaders to form committees designed to discuss the critical issues facing the new team and come up with solutions.  They are examining the structure and financing of City government and expect to have a plan in place so Mayor Spencer can hit the ground running in January.  Noticeably absent from the transition team is outgoing Mayor McMahon.  I wish Vaughn well, I like him personally but watched him make some bad decisions as Council President.  Living just a few minutes from the City line whatever happens in and to Reading affects my life as well.  Yes, we’d all like to be able to say we’re from Reading and have a positive reaction to that but I’m not holding my breath.