Tom Wolf: We Found $109M in Savings in Two Weeks

Gov. Wolf | Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Gov. Wolf | Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

About two weeks ago, Gov. Tom Wolf launched the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Innovation, Modernization and Efficiency. He even calls it by its cheesy acronym: GO-TIME.

Wolf says the office has already located $109 million in expected cost savings for Pennsylvania.

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Second Penn Meeting Disrupted by Protesters

We told you yesterday about how activists disrupted a meeting of the Penn Board of Trustees for a protest aimed at the board’s chairman, David Cohen, who is also executive vice president at Comcast. Turns out activists weren’t done: They also disrupted a later meeting held by the trustees at the Inn at Penn.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports:

The Board of Trustees Budget & Finance Meeting today quite literally ended in protest. Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, a local labor union-backed nonprofit, stood outside of the Inn at Penn’s Walnut entrance to demand that the University pay payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to the city government.

Protestors were questioned by a Penn detective and grilled by Penn President Amy Gutmann’s security guards, said Gwen Snyder, Executive Director of Philadelphia Area Jobs with Justice. Protestors were also given pamphlets specifying the limits to their free speech by hotel management, Snyder said.

“We made it public that we were planning to attend the trustees meeting,” Snyder said. “We thought it was really important for them to hear not just from us but from community members and supporters across the city that we think Penn should pay its fair share.”

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WATCH: Anti-Comcast Activists Disrupt Penn Trustees Meeting

Protest at Penn Board of Trustees

[Updated with David Cohen comment on FCC vote.]

Anti-Comcast student activists disrupted a meeting of the Penn Board of Trustees this morning, protesting the company’s stance on net neutrality and its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable.

They took video of the event, in which they unfurled a banner emblazoned with the hashtag #Don’tBlockMyInternet:

“Students demanded that Comcast stop its advocacy and lobbying against Title II net neutrality at both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and in Congress,” the activists, who are working with Philadelphia’s Media Mobilizing Project, said in a press release. “They also spoke out against Comcast’s push to merge with its biggest competitor, Time Warner Cable.” About a dozen students participated.

One problem: David Cohen — Comcast’s executive vice president and chairman of Penn’s board — wasn’t there to see the protest directed at him. According to the video, however, the meeting was adjourned rather than have trustees persist in the face of the disruption.
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Casey Pushes for Tougher Oil Train Regulations

Sen. Bob Casey is pushing to expedite a new federal regulation intended to increase the safety of oil-carrying trains that roll through Philadelphia on their way to the city’s refineries.

Pittsburgh Business Times reports:

Add Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to the list of senators who are pushing for an expedited review of a draft rule that would require older railroad tanker cars be phased out or retrofitted.

Casey’s office said he’ll be sending a letter asking that the Office of Management and Budget move quickly in finalizing the rule and publishing it. The rule comes in the wake of tanker car explosions hauling shale oil. The proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation aims to improve railroad safety by getting rid of requiring improvements to the older DOT-111 railroad tankers.

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Wolf Proposes Cutting Corporate Tax in Half

Gov. Wolf. | Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Gov. Wolf. | Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Take that, Gov. Rick Scott.

The same week the Florida governor came to Philadelphia to poach businesses — saying his state’s tax structure is less burdensome than the Keystone’s state — Gov. Tom Wolf proposed cutting Pennsylvania’s main corporate tax rate in half.

TribLive reports:

Wolf, a Democrat, said during a visit to Bethlehem that his first budget proposal next week would seek to reduce the tax from 9.99 percent to 5.99 percent in 2016, 5.49 percent in 2017 and 4.99 percent in 2018.

“The commonwealth can help set the table for robust private-sector growth to create and retain good jobs while strengthening the middle class,” said Wolf, a York County businessman. “In order to create jobs that pay and an economy that grows, we must acknowledge that success will require investment in our companies and our people, and a new business climate that is welcoming and fair.”

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UPDATED: Huge Kensington Fire Disrupts SEPTA

[Updated: 11:10 a.m.] Fox 29 reports the fire has been brought under control:

The fire was placed under control just after 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

No firefighters were injured.

The Fire Commissioner said Tuesday morning that no residents were affected by the fire, and power and gas was only shut off to the building involved. Gas was shut off for one neighboring building as well.

SEPTA Stations in that area will remain closed, pending an inspection of the rail lines for icing.

[Original] A three-alarm fire in West Kensington has disrupted SEPTA bus and rail service.

CBS Philly reports:
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Nutter Weighs School District’s $103 Million Request

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Staring down a deadline to deliver his own 2016 budget request to City Council, Mayor Nutter is weighing a request from the Philadelphia School District for $103 million in new funds, KYW reports.

Because of that request, Nutter says his budget proposal remains unsettled: “What we’re trying to figure out right now is how to properly and in a sustainable fashion respond to the $103 million request. What would it be, what form would it come in, and do we in fact include that in the budget that gets submitted.”

Nutter is resolute that the requests need to be settled quickly: “The Governor’s budget address is on Tuesday, the 3rd. My budget address is on Thursday, the 5th. So all of this to some extent will be happening in real-time. We’re at a point where we need to address the budgetary request from the School District as early on as possible (and) identify those resources. We will collectively try to figure out how to do that. But there’s no question that the need is great.”

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Paul Offit’s Measles Crusade

Illustration by Gluekit

Illustration by Gluekit

If you look at a bar graph of measles outbreaks in the United States since 2001, you’ll see a startling and ominous trend: After years of very few cases of the highly contagious — and sometimes deadly — virus, the number spiked exponentially in 2014 to a 20-year high of 644. With the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland, which has affected more than 120 people in 17 states, we’re on track to top that this year, which has Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia doctor Paul Offit in a quiet rage. Read more »

Why Do Teachers Get Snow Days?


UPDATE: Philadelphia school teacher Steve Clark has written a response to this column

Hey school teachers, I have an idea.

Instead of fighting the School Reform Commission and campaigning for a friendly governor and organizing your efforts for a sympathetic mayor and protesting at City Council meetings and complaining about contributing more to your health insurance and your pensions let me suggest another tactic: How about you actually go to work?

Even when it snows. Read more »

Charter School Showdown Is Today

empty classroom

It’s a big day for Philadelphia schools. Late this afternoon, the School Reform Commission will decide whether  it will approve any of 39 applications to start new charter schools in the city.

Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai wants the SRC to say yes. So does the Philadelphia School Partnership, which has offered to throw $25 million into the pot to fund the charters.  But most of the candidates for mayor say no.

The reason for the dispute? Worries that already-struggling Philadelphia public schools will suffer if more of the district’s budget is shifted to supporting charters. But charter advocates offer a counter-case: Their schools will provide a better education to Philadelphia students.

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