Tom Wolf’s Crash Course in State Government

Signs: Jeff Fusco; Wolf: James Robinson/ Press.

Signs: Jeff Fusco; Wolf: James Robinson/ Press.

In late July — on the day Donald Trump was nominated for president — Governor Tom Wolf drove from Harrisburg to a strip mall in Johnstown to talk about addiction.

Fighting addiction to prescription drugs and heroin has become one of Wolf’s signature issues, and his administration has designated 45 Centers of Excellence that will receive funding to attack the problem “holistically,” which is a word the governor uses often. In this case, it means giving help to addicts to overcome whatever is wrong with their lives, to solve the problems that led to abusing drugs in the first place. It’s a far-reaching plan. Read more »

On Philly Fatherhood: My Dad and the Talk

Photograph provided by Robert Huber.

Photograph provided by Robert Huber.

One summer night a long time ago, when I was 11, my father drove me down into Philly to see a baseball game. Dad had zero interest in baseball. I loved it. So it was up to me, riding shotgun down Roosevelt Boulevard from Morrisville, to conjure: the grass more perfect than any grass anywhere. The Reds! Skinny Frank Robinson, part of the first wave of great black players allowed into the majors, who stood almost on top of home plate, as if daring the pitcher to hit him.

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Can John Middleton Make the Phillies Champs Again?

John Middleton

John Middleton | Photograph by Chris Crisman

Standing in the sanctuary of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, where blue bloods go to worship, John Middleton begins to cry. He has just looked up at a stained-glass window near the back, a small purple triangle with his father’s initials, too small to really be visible. Something else in the window is clear, though: a red P, perhaps three inches high — the logo of the Philadelphia Phillies. John’s father, Herbert, bought 15 percent of the team in 1993, for $18 million. Herb didn’t get to enjoy his Phils for very long — he dropped dead of a heart attack in 1998. Over the years, John chipped away as other team owners wanted to sell their stakes, and now he owns just shy of a majority of the Phillies, about 48 percent. His share is worth better than half a billion dollars. But none of that has anything to do with why John tears up.

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The End of the Tank Job: Why the Sixers Stopped Trying to Lose

Jerry Colangelo, chairman of basketball operations, and Harris take in another loss. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

Jerry Colangelo, chairman of basketball operations, and Josh Harris take in another loss. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

At the time, it seemed that a punch in Boston was the end of The Process.

Sam Hinkie, the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, had devised the bold, open-ended plan to build the team into an NBA champion — which was quickly dubbed The Process, as if it might go on for many years, perhaps forever. But when the Sixers’ young star, Jahlil Okafor, got into an ugly street fight, everything quickly changed. Read more »

Archbishop Charles Chaput: The Hardliner

Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP Images

Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP Images

All Pat Smiley wants is a chance to meet with him, to make her case, to be heard — that’s all any of them want, really. But Archbishop Charles Chaput, the head of Philadelphia’s Catholic Church, can be a difficult man to pin down. There have been dozens of closings of Philadelphia Catholic churches since 2010. Some of these churches haven’t been well-attended for many years, and Church coffers have been in steep decline; no one disputes that the local archdiocese has serious financial problems, though no one except Church bean counters knows all the numbers. There are also other problems, of course: the sexual-abuse scandal of the last decade, on top of a Church that operates more and more at odds with contemporary culture — especially concerning the “pelvic issues,” meaning acceptance of gays and birth control and women priests and allowing male priests to marry. There is great doubt and unrest even among the remaining faithful.

Pat Smiley’s church — St. Joachim, the oldest Catholic church in the Northeast — closed two years ago. She still doesn’t really know why. Read more »

The Secret Life of Chip Kelly

Illustration, left,  by Viktor Miller Gausa (stadium: iStockphoto/Thinkstock; Kelly: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images). Photograph, right, by Douglas Levy

Illustration, left, by Viktor Miller Gausa (stadium: iStockphoto/Thinkstock; Kelly: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images). Photograph, right, by Douglas Levy

I am in pursuit. It’s late May, and I’m spending a few days driving all over the southeastern corner of New Hampshire, that plug of land that gives the Live Free or Die state a right-of-way to the sea. Random inlets of crystalline water lap small towns built around proper squares and painted white. Many are older than America itself.

This is where I’m searching for Chip Kelly — a revolutionary masquerading as a football coach — even though I’m sure he’s in Philadelphia, with his team. Read more »

The Rise and Fall of Kathleen Kane

Kathleen Kane and Frank Fina.  (Kane: Matt Rourke/Associated Press; Fina: Jason Minick/Associated Press)

Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane, left, and former state prosecutor Frank Fina. (Kane: Matt Rourke/Associated Press; Fina: Jason Minick/Associated Press)

Ruth Lenahan remembers the feeling she had when she sat down with her friend Kathleen Kane in a political operative’s office in downtown Scranton back in 2011. Kane had been a prosecutor for Lackawanna County for a dozen years, but left in ’07 to raise her two young sons. Now she was restless, and thinking of running for some office. The year before, in 2010, she’d promised to take on a corrupt state senator, Bob Mellow, but was pressured not to by her husband’s family, which owns a large trucking company — taking on Mellow meant risking the loss of a huge state liquor-hauling contract. So she backed out. But now there was a new office to run for, one that seemed to fit her: state attorney general, which, after governor, is the most important elected position in Pennsylvania. And Ruth Lenahan’s feeling about her friend was profound: She was awestruck. Read more »

Lynne Abraham: Can a Woman Win the Philadelphia Mayor’s Race?

Photograph by Colin Lenton

Photograph by Colin Lenton

It seems an unlikely thing to be doing with Lynne Abraham.

On a cool, breezy Friday in New York in December, we’re at the Frick, looking at paintings. Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid is a favorite of hers, and we gaze intently; it depicts a servant handing her lady a letter. Abraham points out the lady’s ambiguous expression, either worry or hope over the letter’s contents, and perhaps the servant has already read it — we don’t know. “Vermeer was a great master of light,” Abraham notes. Sunlight floods the lady’s writing desk and picks out her pearl earring, bathing the moment’s tension. “What’s the message she’s getting?” Read more »

How Bill Cosby Took Down Bill Cosby


One April morning in 2006, I left a note for Bill Cosby at the back gate of his mansion that commands a five-acre spread in Elkins Park. It was an act of desperation. I was writing a profile of him, and I couldn’t get Cosby to respond to me. Sticking the note in his fence — I didn’t venture past the stern NO TRESPASSING warning to walk down his long driveway and knock on his door — is one of those silly moves writers make so they can say to their editors, “Hey, I tried.”

Then, a couple days later, I got a call.

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Meet the New Doc. Same as the Old Doc?

Photograph by Adam Jones

Photograph by Adam Jones

I’m searching for the good Johnny Doc, the one he wants me to find. The new one.

And here he is, in plain sight, on a cool, partly cloudy morning in early October, sitting quietly on a folding chair near the corner of 12th and Market streets in downtown Philadelphia.

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