Inquirer: Double byline on ethics reform rally


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.


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Image of a completely unrelated speaking engagement by Gov. Rendell Chief of Staff Greg Fajt courtesy here.

Inquirer: Plans for rebuilding I-80

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

HARRISBURG – Months before the federal government could approve even a plan to make I-80 a toll road, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission says it knows how it would spend part of the money.

Within a decade, the commission says, it would resurface more than 200 miles of I-80 across northern Pennsylvania – most of which has not been fixed in 30 years.

Additionally, it would replace 62 bridges along I-80 that officials believe are in poor condition or are too low, according to a list of projects unveiled by the commission yesterday.

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King of Prussia: the child of Philadelphia tax structure

Your boy Tom Infield had an 1,800-word (not including sidebar) profile of King of Prussia – the 27,000-person outpost northwest of Philadelphia famed for the mall of the same name – for the Inquirer yesterday.

It is the prototype for suburban sprawl that is trying to remake itself into green(er)-friendly, small city life to retain a growing environmentally-conscious and urban drawn population who still might be concerned by the rampant crime of Philadelphia.

The thing is I don’t think any of the 60 online comments for the story came after having read the whole thing – I know mine didn’t.

Because, while Infield’s piece suggests King of Prussia was developed by the convergence of major roads at its doorstep – 202, 422, I-76, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike – it didn’t mention anything about Philadelphia’s aggressive tax structure.

This is something I read quite a deal about for my honors thesis, which focused on Philadelphia’s Republican Party. Indeed, I actually posted on this very topic back in January on the blog I made for the thesis.

Continue reading King of Prussia: the child of Philadelphia tax structure

How celebrities recover from scandal


In a stellar example of evergreen journalism, the Philadelphia Inquirer also had a little fun.

Tired of celebrities, politcians and other public figures taking the same route of recovery after some scandal, most usually of their own making? Well, apparently so is the Inqy.

They’ve set up a “Redeemability Quotient,” a mathematical formula to see how well or if at all someone could clean their name up after a public relations stumble.

Check it out, well worth the time.

Your grandmother playing nintendo


(Photograph by Charles Fox/Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Photographer)

In last Sunday’s Inquirer, Pulitzer Prize-winner Mike Vitez, who is always good for a great trend or human interest story, had one of his best of recent memory.

It was the story of residents in retirement homes bowling… with Nintendo Wii.

Below check this video for the new media that the Inqy isn’t providing but totally should be. ..How can you not enjoy it?

Grieving, angry and determined (Philadelphia Inquirer: 1/22/06)

My first byline in a professional newspaper came with a Pulitzer Prize winner, someone who would become something of a mentor. Not too bad, eh?

By Michael Vitez and Christopher Wink | Jan. 22, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

Leslie Willis Lowry organized yesterday’s panel to stop gun violence because her son was killed in 2000.

Imtisar Shah sat on the panel to stop gun violence because her son was killed in 2003.
Angela Riley sat in the audience yesterday and rose to speak out against gun violence because her son was just killed in August – three months after graduating from prep school.

“My son had a 95.5 GPA,” said Riley, a Southwest Philadelphia mother. “I came for my own therapy because my wound is really, really fresh.”

These three women, along with nearly 100 mothers, fathers, siblings, community leaders and public officials determined to combat what they call an epidemic in gun violence, came to the African American Museum in Center City yesterday to express their grief and outrage, but, more important, to seek solutions.

Lowry, director of education and community programs at the museum, organized yesterday’s panel in conjunction with an exhibit at the museum: “Bearing Witness: Murder’s Wake.” This is a collection of photographs of friends and family taken by her nephew after they learned of her son’s death.

About 80 people attended a similar forum – Take Action Against Gun Violence Town Meeting – at First United Methodist Church of Germantown, held at the same time yesterday afternoon.

The facts of gun violence are startling: 380 people were slain in Philadelphia last year – 80 percent by bullet wounds. Eighty percent of the victims were African Americans males, 40 percent age 22 or younger. Forty-five victims were 18 or younger.

Already this year, at least 19 people in the city have been killed.

Why is gun violence rising? “Too many guns,” said Dorothy Johnson-Speight, whose son was killed in 2001. He was gunned down in a dispute over a parking space. Johnson-Speight went on to found Mothers in Charge, one of many groups in attendance yesterday devoted to stopping gun violence.

At both forums, many solutions were offered – most notably support of legislation that would limit the sale of handguns in Pennsylvania to one a month a person.

“Why would anyone have to buy more than one gun a month, unless you’re planning to start a revolution,” said Inspector Steve Johnson, a Philadelphia police officer attending the session at the museum. “I don’t see any need for people to walk around armed. It creates a dire situation.”

He said people go through a period of outrage after killings but become complacent again. “We have to maintain that outrage,” he said, for change to occur.

“We must show the violent, hopeless youth in our streets we really do care about them,” said Qamar Rasheed of Camden, whose brother was killed. She said youths are so violent because society has given up on them and they’ve given up on themselves.

“They don’t feel there’s any value to who they are,” she said. “We must show them we will protect them at all costs.”

State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) called the epidemic of gun violence a public health problem. He said he would like to see a national policy to combat the problem.

Karen Warrington, communications officer for U.S. Rep. Robert Brady (D., Pa.), said young people had nothing to do. “The schools spit them out on the street,” she said, adding that people “can’t allow a school system to continue to fail 70 percent of the children. At some point, a child will give up.”

Until the public demands accountability, Warrington said, “we will keep coming together at funerals.”

Speaking at First United Methodist Church, Malik Aziz stressed a point made repeatedly at both forums:

“This is something in our community that is erasing our young people,” said Aziz, the co-founder and co-chair of Men for a United Philadelphia, an antiviolence group. “We have to work together to end that.

“Violence affects everyone, from grandmas who are scared to go outside to the youth getting killed.”

Text as it appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 22, 2006.

Dispute ends with one dead, one hurt (Philadelphia Inquirer: 4/26/06)

By Barbara Boyer and Christopher Wink | Apr 26, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

One teen is dead, another is charged with murder, and police are looking for a third after an Olney playground turned into a bloody crime scene.

Yagouba Bah, 17, of the 100 block of West Champlost Street, was shot twice and stabbed so brutally Thursday night that one police official said the wound looked as though the victim had been eviscerated on the playground.
And, police said, it all happened in front of the teen’s brother.

Maurice Harmon, 17, of the 5800 block of Howard Street, was shot in the thigh accidentally by a friend during the slaying of Bah, police said. Harmon was treated for injuries – and charged yesterday with murder. He is a junior at a school run by Community Education Partners at 12th Street and Allegheny Avenue.

At a vigil and antiviolence rally last night in the playground where the teenager was attacked, more than 50 people, many of them children, gathered around a tree decorated with teddy bears, cards and a poster board that read: “We love you, Gouba.”

Many were in tears. Some stared with blank expressions at candles placed at the base of the tree. Others cried out: “You didn’t have to kill him!”

Tondalea Wiggins, the boy’s stepmother, was the only member of the teen’s family who was able to speak to the crowd about the tragedy that had visited them.

“Let Gouba rest,” she said. “God has a plan for everybody. He don’t have to suffer no more.”

She also pleaded with the young people in attendance to stop the violence and to resolve conflicts amicably.

“You don’t fight somebody just because they came from another country,” Wiggins said. The family emigrated from the African nation of Guinea, she said later.

Then she had words for her stepson’s attackers:

“Whoever did this is going to pay. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but you’re going to pay for what you did,” Wiggins said.

This year, there have been 115 homicides, the same as for the comparable period last year, when the total for the year was 380. That was the highest since 1997, when more than 400 homicides were recorded.

Police said they responded to the Olney Recreation Center in the 6000 block of North A Street at 8:22 p.m. Thursday. There they found Bah, who had gunshot wounds to the back and side and a deep stab wound to the abdomen.

Bah, a ninth grader at Excel Academy at 6600 Bustleton Ave., one of four district schools for over-age students, was rushed to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9 p.m.

Harmon was shot in the left thigh and taken to Einstein by a private vehicle, police said. Police yesterday were still looking for the friend who accidentally shot him.

As police surveyed the playground, they said, they discovered casings from a .45-caliber gun as well as a 9mm gun, a white metal rod, and a bloodied knife.

Police said the teens had a running argument earlier in the evening. Witnesses told police the fights flared and calmed, and then, before one teen starting swinging a stick, another pulled a knife and two pulled guns.

Capt. Benjamin Naish, a police spokesman, said Bah had been getting the better of the other teens before it escalated with weapons. Police said Bah had not been armed.

Police said the nature of the argument was unclear. They also had not determined who took Harmon to the hospital for his leg injury.

Yesterday afternoon, teens returned to the playground, where chalk marks and crime-scene tape remained.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call homicide detectives at 215-686-3334.

Contact staff writer Barbara Boyer at 215-854-2641 or

Inquirer staff writer Stephanie L. Arnold contributed to this article.

Text as it appeared in the April 26, 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on B01.

Road-rage case ends in a guilty verdict (Philadelphia Inquirer: 4/1/06)

By Christopher Wink | Apr 1, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

Friends of a newlywed father who was shot to death last May during a traffic flare-up with another motorist pumped their fists as his alleged killer was found guilty yesterday of first-degree murder.

Frank Jeffs, 52, of Southwest Philadelphia, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison in the death of Robert Kerwood, 28, a South Philadelphia construction worker. Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina scheduled sentencing for May 15.

“I’m absolutely very happy with the verdict,” said Kerwood’s widow, Julie, whom he married 11 days before he died. “It’s comforting to know he will never be able to do something like this again.”

In closing arguments yesterday, prosecutor Carmen Lineberger called Jeffs a “wannabe military” type who “wanted to kill something that day.”

The trouble started on the Schuylkill Expressway and escalated when the men exited, honking and cutting each other off on 61st Street near Eastwick Avenue.

Jeffs, who worked in heating and air-conditioning at the University of Pennsylvania, fired three shots from a licensed .22-caliber revolver. Kerwood died the next day, May 6.

Jeffs’ godfather and uncle, Al Pellecchia, called his nephew “the kind of guy who wouldn’t step on an ant walking by.”

“It’s obvious that somewhere along the line, [the jurors] weren’t paying attention,” Pellecchia said.

Defense lawyer C. Scott Shields said Jeffs was acting in self-defense.

“This a scary, terrifying guy screaming out of his big SUV,” Shields said in his closing remarks. “What was Frank Jeffs supposed to do?”

Kerwood had waved “a black, shiny object” at Jeffs – investigators believe it was a cell phone – and yelled for him to pull over.

“He thought it was a gun, and acted to defend his life,” Shields said.

Kerwood’s family yesterday remembered him as a thoughtful and loving father of three.

“I don’t think a day would go by that he wouldn’t call and say, ‘I love you, Ma,’ ” said Kerwood’s mother, Julia. She said that after her son died, “I wanted to give up, but now I think I’m going to get my life together.”

Contact Christopher Wink at

Text as it appeared in the April 1, 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on B04.

Airline-flight harassment case is heard (Philadelphia Inquirer: 3/18/06)

By Christopher Wink | Mar 18, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

Local radio personality E. Steven Collins was settling into his first-class seat next to his wife on a flight to Philadelphia from Los Angeles when he noticed Robert Baldwin.

“He was muttering something,” Collins said.

From there, his July 31 flight got worse – a whole lot worse, he told a Philadelphia judge yesterday as he pressed charges of harassment and ethnic intimidation against Baldwin.

Collins contends that Baldwin, who sat behind him and his wife, used racial epithets, kicked his wife’s seat, and put his bare feet on her headrest throughout the five-hour ride.

Collins is large – more than 6 feet tall and more than 200 pounds – and has a booming voice. He could have responded to Baldwin’s affronts in many ways, he said.

He chose to notify the flight staff and ultimately the police, including a personal call to Commissioner Sylvester Johnson.

“African American men need to know that they don’t need to be violent to get justice in this system,” said Collins, host of E. Steven Live on WPHI-FM (100.3) and national sales director for Radio One Philadelphia.

He said justice began yesterday with the first day of Baldwin’s criminal trial.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Khan frequently pointed to the role of alcohol. One flight attendant testified that she had served Baldwin, of Blue Bell, two double vodka tonics. Another said she had thought Baldwin, who was accompanied by his son and wife, was intoxicated before he got on the plane.

In response, Baldwin’s attorney, Mark Cedrone, called several of Baldwin’s former coworkers from Rohm & Haas as character witnesses. Baldwin left the Philadelphia chemical company after the harassment charges were filed.

Colleagues labeled his reputation “excellent” and his history of racial tolerance “sterling.”

Cedrone also questioned whether Municipal Court had jurisdiction, because the dispute started in the air and ended at Philadelphia International Airport, part of which is in Delaware County.

Judge Marsha Neifield directed both sides to file briefs on the jurisdiction question by May 15 and said she would resume the trial May 23.

“Baldwin has to know that you can’t say things and do things without consequences,” Collins said. “We’ll pursue this every which way and in every direction possible.”

Contact Christopher Wink at

Text as it appeared in the March 18, 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on B01.

Philadelphia Inquirer Internship Reflection (5/23/06)

By Christopher Wink | May 23, 2006

It was January 16, 2006 that I was offered and I accepted an internship with the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was that very Monday that I accepted a position I hadn’t expected to get, a position with the city desk of a large, historical, urban daily.

I think about the semester I spent walking the streets of Philadelphia with an Inquirer ID around my neck and a steno pad stuck in my back pocket, those felt-tip black pens, Hermes, and DocCenter. I made mistakes, mistakes as inexplicable as your palms sweating when you go to shake some silly celebrity’s hand. I went to court without a pen, to a press conference without a pad, and an interview without both. I called detectives without remembering why and had quotes without remembering from whom.

I covered the courts on Fridays. Allow me to demystify that. Most weeks that meant I sat in the Criminal Justice Center on Filbert Street waiting for jury deliberations to end or chasing down grieving widows to get a quotation on how the verdict made her feel.

Continue reading Philadelphia Inquirer Internship Reflection (5/23/06)