Greek mythology and state government; no, it’s funny, I swear

Sometimes you have more color from a story than you can fit. Yesterday, for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I covered a press conference held by a coalition of citizen groups calling for legislative reform on the third anniversary of the pay-raise controversy.

Interesting read, but I simply couldn’t get the following in the story:

Matt Brouillette of The Commonwealth Foundation, called state Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, a “minion” of House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Fayette.

Under DeWeese’s control, the chairwoman of the House State Government committee stalls reform legislation, Brouillette said.

“She is Cerberus, guarding the River Styx,” he said, referring to the fierce three-headed dog that is said to patrol the banks of the boundary between the Earth and the underworld in the Greek mythology.

What power I have, to keep this from readers.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Schaut.

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Post-Gazette: Three years later, citizen groups still want change in Harrisburg

This ran today for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The coverage is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

HARRISBURG — A slim slice of carrot cake sat on a podium in the state Capitol rotunda today, marking the third anniversary of the infamous legislative pay-raise vote of July 7, 2005.

A coalition of citizens’ groups said the small piece of cake represented the state’s new open records law — the one and only piece of reform legislation that the General Assembly has enacted in the wake of a huge public outcry over the 2 a.m. vote to increase legislative salaries by up to 34 percent, an increase that was later repealed.

“There is not very much cake for the people of Pennsylvania to eat,” said Gene Stilp of Taxpayers & Ratepayers United, who hauled an inflatable pink pig around the state in late 2005 and 2006 to protest the pay raise.

The Legislature did approve some changes to its operating procedures, such as adjourning most sessions by 11 p.m. and waiting between six and 24 hours before taking final votes on bills.

….

See the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Photo courtesy of Three Sources.com.

Number of Views:2162

July 4 Fireworks in Harrisburg

After working on July 4, I missed out on the festivities – aside from a Yuengling at the Pub, a bar that wants to be a club that sits discreetly in the alleyway behind my apartment.

Fortunately, here in Harrisburg, they do July 4 right, and I got a repeat Sunday night, fireworks over the Susquehanna River. Fireworks, plenty of basketball, sun and no work over the weekend, a holiday indeed.

Below, see part of the show that went on Friday.

Anyone have great July 4 excitement?

Photo of Harrisburg fireworks thanks to Bridget Lynn.

Number of Views:3153

Historic newspaper circulation data: how many fewer newspaper readers are there?

Okay, we get it, newspaper circulation is down. Everyone is ditching print for online.

But, I get the feeling it is a bit exaggerated. I’ve already posted here that we’re simply living through what we’ll someday call the newspaper bubble, the market swinging the industry nearer to a healthy environment.

I would love to really investigate the rise and fall of newspaper circulation numbers through generations, but the numbers are kept fairly private by those who have the best access, groups like the Audit Bureau of Circulations, a nonprofit that was formed in 1914 by publishers and advertisers wanting to provide the industry regulated, reputable circulation data – and they aren’t giving it out to me.

So, we tend to mostly guess from reports in newspapers that provide some information. I did find some great numbers from the Newspaper Association of America, though the data is only up to 2003, perhaps before industry fears went public and the newspaper bubble had clearly burst. After that date, the NAA makes you pay for the information.

Rather than forking out the $50, let’s just crunch what we have.

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Number of Views:8450

Post-Gazette: Turnpike lease stuck in committee [with my audio]

HARRISBURG — A deal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike “will not see the light of day,” vowed the chairman of the House Transportation Committee yesterday.

That would effectively kill Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposal to enter into a $12.8 billion, 75-year lease with a consortium comprising the Spanish multinational Abertis Infraestructuras SA and Citi Infrastructure Investors, a subsidiary of Citibank.

“There is no meaningful support among our committee members,” said committee Chairman Joseph F. Markosek, D-Monroeville. He said he has no intention of bringing it to a committee vote.

“I am putting a permanent hold on it. It will not see the light of day for as long as I am chairman.”

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Hear some of Markosek’s comments above.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Hear Rendell’s response of Markosek’s comments:

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Image courtesy of Central Penn Business.

Number of Views:4088

Post-Gazette: State passes budget [with my audio]

I contributed to today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that a state budget deal was reached and signed last night.

I also cut an audio clip of Gov. Ed Rendell speaking on the budget, which the Post-Gazette put on its Web site: hooray for New Media!

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Alongside Rendell is House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, and House Majority Floor Leader Bill Deweese, D-Fayette. Behind him is outgoing Budget Secretary Michael Macsh, who came with Rendell from Philadelphia.

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Number of Views:1944

July 4 Celebration in Philadelphia: I'm not there

I had plans that if a state budget deal was finished in time, I would go back to Philadelphia to see their July 4 celebration outside of the Art Museum.

Being the home of the Declaration, Cradle of Liberty and birthplace of Democracy, Philadelphia has to throw the best Independence Day celebration. It’s in the Constitution, I think.

This year, right about now, John Legend is performing, I am in the State Capitol in Harrisburg, not even enjoying what the state capital has to celebrate our nation’s independence. Lame!

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Number of Views:1514

Post-Gazette: Pennsylvania cigarettes will be safer

Here working in the State Capitol on July Fourth…

HARRISBURG — Cigarettes in Pennsylvania are due to get safer, under legislation approved by the Legislature.

House Bill 1612, introduced by Rep. Timothy J. Solobay, D-Washington, would require all cigarettes sold in Pennsylvania to be “fire safe.”

Low-ignition strength cigarettes are less likely to cause a fire if they are left unattended by careless smokers, said state Fire Commissioner Edward A. Mann, who praised the legislation.

Mr. Mann said, “Fire-safe cigarettes are rolled with bands of less porous, slow-burning paper, so if the cigarette is left unattended, it will go out when it burns down to one of those bands. There have been too many tragedies caused by the careless use of cigarettes, and this standard is designed to reduce that risk.” The bill was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and will be signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell, said spokesman Chuck Ardo.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

I also contributed to this report on a stalled commercial dog kennel bill.

Photo courtesy of Germany Joys.

Number of Views:2767

The end is here: Christopher Wink joined Facebook

Today, nearly four years after it launched, I have joined Facebook.

The site itself launched in September 2004, and during that summer, while I readied to begin what would be a transcendent tenure at Temple University in Philadelphia, founder Mark Zuckerberg was watching his baby explode. From its Harvard roots, through other Boston and Ivy League universities to Temple and much of the rest.

I can remember first hearing about it in late August 2004, on a porch of my college dormitory. From the very start I ignored it.

I can remember hearing it roll out to other, smaller universities and then excitement because friends from community colleges could join – with institution e-mail addresses. I continued to ignore it.

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Number of Views:4434

Budget debate can wait for Taps, okay?

The press release of the day, filling your desire for the perhaps ridiculous nature of PR. I am going to sit in the State Capitol over July 4th and beyond and this is what we’re focusing on…

House approves Lentz resolution urging schools to teach Taps

HARRISBURG, July 3 – The House of Representatives adopted a resolution (H.R. 803) Tuesday introduced by state Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-Delaware, urging the state secretary of Education to direct Pennsylvania school districts to provide training in the playing of Taps.
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Number of Views:3065