Sorry for the long absence. It’s been a busy first half of 2010 for Philly Phoughts. I started a new job at the beginning of February. I also completed another two semesters of grad school, along with a summer session course that ended Monday. I finally have some down time, so I’m back at this, hopefully for good this time.
Tonight, I’m writing from The Piazza in Northern Liberties. This neighborhood just northeast of Center City has been the site of a great deal of urban renewal the last few years that has turned it into one of the city’s rising star neighborhoods. Among the construction projects is The Piazza, a set of new apartment buildings next to the old Schmidt’s Brewery with a courtyard in between. This courtyard includes restaurants, shops, picnic tables, a concert stage and a large video screen.
In other words, it’s a great place to spend a gorgeous summer evening such as this one.
The rest of this neighborhood is laden with a number of nice restaurants and small shops. Revitalized neighborhoods such as Northern Liberties will only help Philadelphia become a more popular city to live in.
Former Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan will retire after this season and run for Congress next year, the Associated Press Reports.
It has been rumored for a while that Runyan, 35, would challenge Democratic incumbent John Adler next year in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which stretches across Southern New Jersey from Philadelphia’s east suburbs, through the Pine Barrens region to the Jersey Shore. Runyan made the challenge official yesterday. The district is very much a swing district, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI) rating of R+1. Adler narrowly won the district by 3.4% in 2008.
“I look forward to a successful end to my career on the field,” Runyan said, “and a spirited campaign against Congressman Adler in 2010.”
Runyan hasn’t played since the Eagles let him go after having surgery on his right knee following last season. He signed a free agent deal with the San Diego Chargers yesterday, which he said would be his last NFL deal.
The mass transit system in Philadelphia is rolling again!
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, SEPTA and Transit Workers Union Local 234 came to a tentative contract agreement early this morning, ending the week-long strike that shut down Philadelphia city buses, trolleys and the Broad Street and Market/Frankford Subway lines.
Union and SEPTA officials announced the deal at 12:45 a.m. this morning at a news conference outside the Center City office of Governor Ed Rendell, the Inquirer reported. The first buses began rolling again around 4 a.m.
According to the Inquirer:
The five-year contract also calls for a 2.5 percent raise in the second year, and a 3 percent raise in each of the final three years. It increases workers’ contributions to the pension fund from the current 2 percent to 3 percent, and increases the maximum pension to $30,000 a year from the current $27,000 a year.
The deal will reportedly be formally voted on by union members within the next two weeks.
The Transit Workers Union Local 234, which works for SEPTA, the Philadelphia area’s mass transit system, went on strike on Tuesday. Today, they rejected another offer, with Union president Willie Brown refusing to put that offer to a vote by all union members.
The strike has shut down all buses, street trolleys and the Broad Street and Market-Frankford subways. This has caused major traffic jams in Center City and overwhelming crowds on SEPTA’s commuter rail lines, which now are carrying commuters to parts of the city normally served by subways, buses and trolleys.
According to Philly.com, Brown said the union’s constitution doesn’t allow its entire membership to vote on a contract that has first been rejected by leadership. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who has been trying to broker a settlement, said the local’s membership must take a vote on the offer by Sunday or he’ll withdraw nearly $7 million in state funds offered to pay bonuses.
“We’re not going to take it to a vote,” Brown told reporters this afternoon. “For the same reason the president of the United States would not bypass Congress and go directly to the people.” He dismissed Rendell’s demand as an effort to divide the union.
Rendell said he will no longer serve as an intermediary in this dispute. “I have a state to run,” he said.
Unions have played a very important role in the history of this country and they still do serve some very noble purposes. But they sometimes don’t know when enough is enough. And it’s hard for government officials, let alone the general public, to have sympathy for them when we’re in the middle of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. The vast majority of Americans would love to have the benefits and job security the TWU claims is no longer sufficient. I certainly wish I did.
Come out to the Mercy Eastwick Wellness Center (2821 Island Avenue in SW Philadelphia) between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday for the MPower Yourself Health and Wellness Expo, presented by Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, Mercy Health System of Southeastern Pennsylvania, NBC10, ESPN Radio 950 and Power99. Get free health screenings, attend free workshops on important health issues, meet some of your favorite media personalities and have a fun day with the whole family. Best of all, it’s all free, from the parking to the screenings to the workshops to the giveaways.
The event will take place under a tent, so it will happen rain or shine on Saturday.
Philadelphia’s sales tax increase, from 7% to 8%, went into effect today. The increase, was necessitated by last month’s emergency budget resolution that avoided massive layoffs of city employees and cuts in city services.
Like anyone, I hate having to pay more in taxes. But if the alternative would have been Philadelphia turning into Detroit or worse, then I guess it was a necessary evil. My only request is one that I keep making but never gets fulfilled – that our politicians eventually have the guts to make real fixes to the system, so that we don’t end up back in this same spot again down the road. Unfortunately, I have found most politicians to favor short-term “quick fixes” that just perpetuate the vicious cycle, either because the vicious cycle benefits them personally or just because they can’t think beyond their next re-election campaign.
On a better note, the city took a step toward fixing its broken property tax system when the Board of Revision of Taxes agreed to relinquish its responsibility for setting tax values. A Philadelphia Inquirer series earlier this year exposed poor management and cronyism within the BRT.
The bullpen is the Phillies’ biggest question entering the playoffs. But the bullpen is a moot point when your starting pitcher delivers the way Cliff Lee did today.
Lee pitched a complete-game six-hitter in the Phillies’ 5-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of their National League Division Series. Lee came within one strike of a shutout in his first career playoff start. He also got a hit and stole a base.
Northern Liberties is one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods in Philadelphia. There are certainly still some ugly spots, but it is quickly becoming trendier. And there are some good restaurants.
I visited one of them tonight – Bar Ferdinand. The name of the game there is Tapas – small, appetizer-sized spanish dishes. They also serve paella, but tapas are their specialty. Makes for a great happy hour spot or for dinner, if you’re willing to make one out of tapas. A very good meal and, compared to some of the other nice restaurants in Philly, a fair price.
So, here goes nothing. I have done blogging for work and now am going to give it a whirl in my personal life. We’ll see how this goes.
After growing up near Princeton, New Jersey, attending Boston University and working for 4 1/2 years for both of Trenton’s two daily newspapers, I have changed careers and homes and love both. I work in marketing communications for Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, a small community hospital in Philadelphia’s Delaware County suburbs. I am also going for my master’s in Communication Management at Temple and do some freelance writing, so I am fairly busy.
Come here for my thoughts on news, politics, sports, and whatever else I want to write about.