TP Features: Interview with Chamber of Commerce chief

A big obstacle for developing a respected online news startup is access.

That’s why having a feature interview with the new president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce was another in  a continuously more consistent stream of serious, originally-reported material for Technically Philly.

Rob Wonderling is losing his office in the Harrisburg State Capitol complex.

On Aug. 1, the two-term Republican state senator from Delaware County will report to the Avenue of the Arts as the new president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, as the private, 5,000-member organization announced last month.

By taking the helm of the region’s largest business advocacy organization, he says he’s eager to rebolden the region’s new business community.

“We’ve really lost the language of entrepreneurship [in the region],” Wonderling, 47, says. “Risk taking and capital and job creation are almost scurrilous terms in some political quarters. I feel very passionately that for a free democratic society, we need all of that.” Read the rest here.

After the jump, see some quotations that didn’t make it into the story, in addition to what helped me grab the interview.

Continue reading TP Features: Interview with Chamber of Commerce chief

A post-graduate internship done: what comes next?

Working in the Capitol bureau of the Patriot-News in Harrisburg in August 2008.

My last day in Harrisburg for came at the end of last month, with the close of my lease with the International House Aug. 30 and the end of my post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

I came home with lots of experience, dozens of great references, and a pile of clips. Browse my clips by publication here.

I pitched my own stories, was sent to dull and fascinating hearings, and got great clips, including front cover, A1 bylines for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Patriot-News and the Morning Call – not too bad. Below are my best six clips of the summer:

Continue reading A post-graduate internship done: what comes next?

Harrisburg International House

Mostly foreign students and temporary workers living in the Harrisburg International House.

While in Harrisburg until last week, I lived at the International House at Third and Chestnut, right in its center city. I left Aug. 30 – leaving my recommendations about what to do in Harrisburg.

During the summer, most of its residents are foreign-born on temporary visas working at Hershey Park, nearby hotels or studying. That provided a fun experience in the hostel-like atmosphere: dancing with a bunch of young men from the United Arab Emirates, playing Uno with girls from the Dominican Republic and watching the NBA playoffs with a group from the Ukraine. I didn’t need a car, could walk to work and play basketball and the grocery store.

Continue reading Harrisburg International House

My Pennsylvania State Capital To-do List: what you have to do in Harrisburg

Today is my last day in Harrisburg.

A buddy and I are packing up my life from a summer-long post-graduate internship covering state government in Pennsylvania’s capitol. After visiting the 30th annual Pennsylvania Chili cook off here in Harrisburg who knows when I’ll be back.

So, here’s my Harrisburg to-do list and how I fared this summer.

Continue reading My Pennsylvania State Capital To-do List: what you have to do in Harrisburg

Capitol feels bite of Pa. gadflies (Philadelphia Inquirer: 7/29/08)

By Christopher Wink | July 29, 2008 | Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG – They call themselves, simply, “the Coalition.”

They are an informal group of about a half-dozen citizen activists – most of them middle-aged men from Central Pennsylvania – who spend their time waging a grassroots war for governmental change in the Capitol.

Each member of the group’s cast of characters has his own political persuasion and priorities – not to mention colorful turns of phrase and memorable props to enliven the good-government message. But all are motivated by the same philosophy: State government needs fixing and elected officials aren’t doing the job.

“There is a cancer on the Capitol,” said Gene Stilp, founder of Taxpayers and Ratepayers United and one of the more visible Coalition members. “The question is if it’s incurable.”

Continue reading Capitol feels bite of Pa. gadflies (Philadelphia Inquirer: 7/29/08)

How walkable is your neighborhood?

PHILADELPHIA WAS RANKED the THE FIFTH MOST WALKABLE CITY IN THE COUNTRY – not as high as I would have suspected, but impressive nonetheless.

But what is even cooler about this is Walk Score itself, the online application used to create the rankings. Walk Score ranked 2,508 neighborhoods in the largest 40 U.S. cities to help you find a walkable place to live, but you can also search any address in the country – I think – and, using Google Maps, you can get its Walk Score.

I can compare the walkability of my new digs in Harrisburg, Pa. – 62 out of 100 – to my old haunts in the 3300-block of North Park Avenue in Philadelphia – 80 of 100.

For the city rankings, each is broken down and evaluated by neighborhood, as can be seen here for Philadelphia.

1. San Francisco
2. New York City
3. Boston
4. Chicago
5. Philadelphia

See the rest here.

Hat tip to Broad and Cecil.

Legislator beset by reform movement (Philadelphia Inquirer: 7/22/08)

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signs legislation on reforming state laws on lobbying and gaming, as Rep. Babette Josephs D-Philadelphia, looks on in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Christopher Wink | July 22, 2008 | Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG – State Rep. Babette Josephs came to the Capitol in 1985 vowing to be a voice for “people who have no voice.” For years, the Center City liberal waged a lonely fight against the pervading conservatism in the General Assembly.

In 2007, after Democrats took control of the House, Josephs ascended to a powerful new role: chairwoman of the State Government Committee, the panel charged with considering legislation related to government operations.

But Josephs, 67, now finds herself the scourge of the newly energized reform movement.

Continue reading Legislator beset by reform movement (Philadelphia Inquirer: 7/22/08)

Pa. lawmakers seek special session on ethics reform (Philadelphia Inquirer: 7/17/08)

By Christopher Wink and Mario F. Cattabiani | Jul 17, 2008 | Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG – A week after 289 criminal charges were filed in a wide-ranging government corruption probe, a group of lawmakers yesterday called for a special legislative session devoted solely to restoring the public’s faith in Harrisburg.

“There is a crisis of confidence in Pennsylvania. . . . We must respond with action,” said Sen. Jeffrey Piccola (R., Dauphin) who was joined by eight other members of the House and Senate who are pushing for a special session dubbed “Governmental and Ethics Reform.”

Said Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D., York), “We are under a dark cloud. . . . We need to get back to the people’s work.”

The group yesterday called on Gov. Rendell to convene such a session beginning in September. Rendell recently made clear he has no plans of doing so on his own, arguing that the legislative agenda for the rest of the year is already crammed with other key bills.

Anticipating that Rendell might not call a special session, the lawmakers yesterday began collecting signatures of their colleagues to force the issue. A governor must call a special session if the majority of the 203-member House and 50-member Senate ask for one.

In prepared remarks released hours after the news conference, Rendell said he would “happily” call a session if petitioned to do so.

“The fall schedule will be a busy one, as the vital issues of energy conservation, utility rate mitigation, and health care are the primary matters we must address,” he wrote. “But, I believe if we dedicate ourselves to work over the summer to try to reach a consensus . . . we can address all of these issues by the end of the year.”

A week ago today, Attorney General Tom Corbett announced criminal counts against a former top House member, 10 Democratic aides and a sitting lawmaker, alleging they conspired to use millions in public funds and resources for political campaign purposes.

Some believe the charges could revive bogged down reform efforts to improve accountability and transparency in Harrisburg that started after the 2005 pay raise debacle.

Dozens of bills have been introduced in the last 18 months dealing with so-called reform efforts. They range from banning gifts to lawmakers to placing limits on campaign donations to abolishing government bonuses. Some of the bills have passed one chamber only to get bottled up in the other, and could be among the agenda items in a special session.

Such sessions are designed to focus lawmakers’ attention on one topic alone and, in theory, to speed the legislative process. In recent years, special sessions have been called to consider legislation dealing with property taxes, drought relief and energy policies.

Some legislators believe the call for a special session on reform is nothing more than a needless headline-grabber.

“If there was the true desire to move on these reform issues we could come back next week and do it,” said Steve Miskin, press secretary to House Minority Leader Sam Smith (R., Jefferson).

Advocates for the special session spoke minutes after another news conference on the topic of reforming Harrisburg wrapped up on the Capitol steps.

A group of 17 Democrats seeking House seats endorsed a slate of policies they dubbed the Pennsylvania Candidate Platform for Reform, or PennCPR. Members of the group pledged, if elected, to cut legislative perks, reduce the influence of lobbyists and increase transparency of campaign funding, among other things.

The agenda, said Paul Drucker, who is running for Chester County’s 157th House seat, is “designed to bring reform efforts off of life support.”

“We are tired of having to explain the embarrassing stories that are coming out of the Capitol,” said Drucker, a Tredyffrin lawyer.

See it on

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!

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.

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

Vince Fumo at his best

HARRISBURG — Today state Senate Democrats held a press conference warning of impending utility deregulation that they say will cause electric bills to jump as much as 65 percent per month for some.

I have a story on the subject coming out tomorrow in the Post-Gazette, but it won’t include some of Sen. Vince Fumo’s finer moments.

After a heart attack in March and a looming trial in November, Fumo announced his retirement, surely freeing up the Prince of Darkness to speak even freer than he had in the past.

Continue reading Vince Fumo at his best