Thursday, February 11, 2016

A 'Justified' police shooting

What I found most interesting from yesterday's press conference by District Attorney Jack Whelan on the fatal police-involved shooting in Chester was not the ruling that it was 'justified,' but what that ruling was based on.

IF you haven't noticed, police shootings are under a microscope these days.

So eyebrows were raised when word started to spread about the Chester shooting, which followed a high-speed chase that started in Upland Borough and ended up on a quiet residential street in the city.

That's when police and Whelan say Shalamar Longer, 33, flashed a gun and pointed it at police officers. He never had a chance to fire a shot.

Officers opened fire on Longer, with as many as 50 to 100 bullets flying.

Whelan indicated yesterday that Longer, who had a lengthy criminal record and just recently was out of jail on parole, had no intention of going back to prison.

And Whelan said they got that information from the man who was sitting next to Longer. That would be his cousin Asmar, 23. Asmar was wounded in the incident. He is not facing any charges.

Whelan said Asmar, who fled the vehicle and was wounded in the gunfire, cooperated with officials and told them his cousin had no intention of going back to jail.

"That speaks volumes, that hes not going back to jail," Whelan said at yesterday's press conference at county CID headquarters in the Media Courthouse. "The reasonable interpretation is that, 'I'm going to do whatever I can not to go back to jail, including killing police officers.'"

I am guessing family and friends of Shalamar Longer might see it another way, or might question the amount of force used in the situation, but it's hard to argue with where that information came from.

Groundhog Day, Harrisburg style

Bill Murray's got nothing on our own Tom Wolf.

That was the governor in Harrisburg on Monday starring in his own version of 'Groundhog Day.' Forget Punxsutawney Phil. Tom Wolf emerged from his governor's mansion burrow, saw his shadow, and immediately predicted six more weeks of budget gridlock - at least.

Actually, what the governor did was present his second budget plan.

He apparently managed to do this with a straight face, seeing as how he has yet to get Republicans in the state House and Senate to agree on his first spending plan for the state.

Wolf believes Pennsylvania is facing severe problems, and he wants a lot more revenue to fix them. To do that, of course, he will need to raise taxes.

Republicans, coming off four years of on-time, no-tax-hike budgets crafted by former Gov. Tom Corbett, have turned up their noses at Wolf's spendthrift ways.

Not surprisingly, they were less than thrilled with Round Two of the Harrisburg budget follies.

The governor again is calling for a hike in the state personal income tax. He again is calling for a new tax on Marcellus Shale. While he is not looking for an increase in the 6 percent sales tax, he does want to tack it on to a lot more services, including your cable TV bill. Smokers aren't as lucky. They're getting burned again with a whopping dollar hike in the cigarette tax.

You can read all the details of the Wolf plan here.

But what stood out Tuesday is the tone the governor took.

He chided Republicans for failing to do their job, and suggested if they were not willing to work with him on a spending plan, they should seek employment elsewhere.

As you might guess, Republicans were less than enamored with his approach.

One went so far as to say talks reverted to where they were last summer.

In other words, don't look for a budget accord - either for Year 1 or Year 2 - anytime soon.

Welcome to Groundhog Day, the Harrisburg edition.

The two sides of Shady

This is the anomaly that is LeSean McCoy.

I can't remember a player I've enjoyed more on the field - and who ticked me off more off of it.

On the field, McCoy is electric. He made Eagles games special, in part because he was a threat to take it to the house every time he touched the ball. But it was the way he did it, with dazzling moves that often left defenders grasping at air, that made him special. His game in the snow vs. the Lions, rushing for 217 yards and touchdown runs of 57 and 40 yards, will forever be burned in my memory. Usually such games, played in near-blizzard like conditions with several inches of snow on the field blurring the yard markers and field making footing next to impossible, turn into slapstick, with players merely trying to remain upright.

Not McCoy. He seemed to be playing at another level, oblivious to the conditions, zigging, zagging and leaping over the helpless Lions. Everyone else was in the snow, McCoy simply was in his element.

That's on the field. Off the field, unfortunately, McCoy too often lived up to his nickname.


There was the Twitter war with a woman, and reports that he tossed another woman off a tour bus.

There was the now-infamous 20-cent tip he left on a $60 tab at a local burger joint.

Now he's the focus of a probe into a brawl at a Philly nightspot early Sunday morning. Two off-duty police officers suffered serious injuries.

Most people believe McCoy is going to be charged in the incident.

McCoy was traded to Buffalo last off-season in a deal for linebacker Kiko Alonso and played this year for the Bills.

Obviously, he still likes to hang out in Philadelphia.

I like the memories McCoy provided on the field.

But I can't get all that off-the-field stuff out of my head.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Daily Numbers for Wednesday Feb. 10

The Daily Numbers: 30 foot waves and 80 mph gusts that battered the Anthem of the Seas during a cruise off the coast of North Carolina. A Delco woman described the ordeal on the ship.

24-1 vote by the Upper Darby Democratic Committee to support challenger Sekela Coles over incumbent state Rep. Margo Davidson in the 164th state House race.

45 to 120 months in prison for a man who wielded an ax during a robbery of the Wawa in Upper Chichester.

1 person killed in hit-run in Chester Tuesday morning.

1 person taken into custody by a SWAT unit yesterday in Collingdale.

33.3 billion dollar budget plan rolled out by Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf yesterday.

0 budgets he and the Legislature have been able to pass so far.

7 months overdue, that would be his first budget effort.

4.3 billion dollar increase in spending from the last budget adopted in Pa.

14 percent increase in spending.

3 billion dollars in increased taxes under the Wolf plan.

11 percent hike in the state income tax, from current 3.07 percent to 3.4 percent.

1.4 billion dollars raised by the income tax hike.

6 percent sales tax would say the same, but would be applied to more services, such as cable TV and movie theater tickets.

2.60 a pack cigarette tax. That’s up from $1.60. It would raise $468 million.

6.5 percent new tax on natural gas production. That would generate $218 million, Wolf says.

0.5 percent surcharge on many insurance premiums, including fire, property and casualty insurance.

8 percent tax on promotional plays at state casinos. That would generate $51 million.

565 million dollars for education, that’s 2-year increase of 10 percent, to $6.3 billion.

90 million dollar boost for early childhood education.

70 million dollar boost for special education.

5 percent boost in aid to higher education, to $1.7 billion.

3 straight loss for the Flyers.

4-1 blowout to the Ducks last night.

50th anniversary of the Orange and Black. Kudos to Chairman Ed Snider.

86-59 win for No. 1 ranked Villanova over DePaul in their first game since taking the top spot in the polls.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.

Tom Wolf must be an Eagles fan. Ever the optimist.

I Don’t Get It: I’m not sure if I was Wolf I would have snarled quite that much at the Republicans in the Legislature. Not exactly going to help what are going to be very tough negotiations.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to residents who continue to pack meetings in Marple with concerns about the proposed Cardinal Crossing development at the site of the former Don Guanella School. But they should temper the allegations being made against commissioners and the developer. That’s not helping.

Quote Box: “It was a terrifying experience and at several points the ship moved so severely to one side, I really thought the ship was going to lose control and topple into the sea.”

- Edgmont resident Emily Harris, on her ordeal aboard the Anthem of the Seas cruise ship, which was rocked by rough weather in the Atlantic.

Welcome to Lent

If I dug deep enough into one of my closets, I'm sure I could probably turn up one of those Rice Bowls that I started every year as a kid. The idea always was to toss your spare change into the Rice Bowl as a Lenten sacrifice. At the conclusion of the 40 days of penitence and self-reflection, you would turn in the Rice Bowl to fund charity projects for needy kids across the globe.

I would start a Rice Bowl every year. I'm not sure I ever actually finished one.

Inevitably, my 'penitence' instead would make its way into my pocket, and toward a penny candy run at Fling's store.

Ask your parents, kids. Yes, there was once a time when you could buy candy for a penny a piece.

Welcome to Lent.

Christians today will be reminded that we are indeed human, that we were created from dust, and to the dust we will return. It's pretty depressing stuff.

We commemorate this idea by having ashes placed on our forehead in the sign of the cross.

Today, that does not bother me a bit. But as a kid, the idea struck me as odd. It struck many of my friends as even odder, as they wondered what that smudge was on my forehead.

It was bad enough that had to walk home every day wearing my blue slacks, white shirt and blue Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary clip-on tie. Now I just knew every one of my friends was stared at my forehead.

The tradition of Lent has changed a bit over the years. Instead of giving something up, we now are encourage to instead be proactive, to do something.

I'm old school. I don't especially like change. I will continue to make my Lenten sacrifices.

There was a time when I would give up alcohol during Lent.

Then I came to my senses and limited it to beer. I rarely drink during the week, but I can tell you that when I get home Friday night the very first thing I do is grab a beer from the fridge. A small celebration that I have survived another week. But a funny thing happened. These days, especially in the winter, I probably drink more wine than beer. And I'm not about to give that up.

Actually, if I was really serious about this, I would attempt to give up coffee. But that undoubtedly would not end well. My guess is the building would wind up surrounded by a SWAT team trying to talk the editor - who hopefully was not armed - down off the roof.

I am a coffee addict. So I quickly came to my senses and realized trying to give that up would be fruitless.

So I will once again fall back on what has become my Lenten standards.

I will once again attempt to refrain from cursing.

I have what you could describe as a 'colorful' vocabulary. The women out in our front office, who often cover their ears after editor's latest outburst, likely would characterize it a bit differently. Especially when they are profusely apologizing to some visitor at the front desk as the profane bellowing showers down upon them.

It's not something I am proud of. Look, I am someone who works with words for a living. I can tell you that cursing is the lazy man's resort. I am all too familiar with the world's most useful four-letter word. I think I have used it in almost every possible way. I am sure the good Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary would be embarrassed for me, and no doubt would be more than happy to remind me - with their trust gold ruler - of the error of my ways.

If past years hold true, this latest quest will last a few hours, until the next time this #$%^%&*( computer eats one of my columns or blogs. That doesn't count, by the way. It's only computerese.

As a backup plan, I will fall back on something that I developed - and regretted - last year.

My eating habits are not the best. Candy and sweets, those confections that everyone was busy slamming down their gullet yesterday on Fat Tuesday, are not my vice of choice.

Salt is.

Specifically, potato chips.

I blame Ed Herr. Yes, that guy on the billboards was a childhood friend. We went to school together. How old am I? I remember when Herr's, which now occupies an entire "campus" out in Nottingham in Chester County, was run out of his dad's garage. We used to snag hot chips literally as they came out of the oven.

I've been eating them ever since.

But not for the next 40 days.

That will make my wife happy. She is the one who chides me for one particularly nasty habit. Upon arriving home, I make a beeline for the drawer where the Herr's bag awaits. I don't even bother to take off my coat. I just dig right in, up to my elbow in greasy, salty delights.

For some reason, I do not put on weight, and my blood pressure does not go through the roof.

Last night when I got home, as usual I started to inhale another bag. And because I'm a sick person, I left a few in the bag and put in back in the drawer, from where it can tempt me for the next 40 days.

Pray for me.

It's enough to make me start cursing again.

More heat generated in 164th state House race

Forget Hillary vs. Bernie.

Delaware County has a red-hot Democratic fight of its own.

Keep an eye on the already bitter race in the 164th state House district in Upper Darby.

That is where Democratic challenger Sekela Coles, a member of the Upper Darby Township Council, is challenging incumbent Democratic state Rep. Margo Davidson.

Monday night the township Democratic Committee endorsed Coles for the seat, pouring a little gas on the fire of an already heated campaign.

Coles immediately branded it a clear snub for the incumbent, unloading on Davidson as "not even supported in your own backyard." Davidson's campaign called the tactic "desperate."

You can get all the details here.

It comes just a week after Davidson was successful in her efforts to keep the county Democrats from backing Coles, instead opting for an open primary. Even so, Coles was claiming a victory, saying a 39-34 vote showed support for her over the incumbent.

In the township vote, Coles says she got 24 votes of the committee, to just one for Davidson. And in a press release announcing the move, her camp could not resist pointing out that one vote came from Davidson's legislative assistant.

"It really shows that the Democrats in Upper Darby are ready for new leadership that stands up for public education, protecting women's rights and economic development," Coles said.

Davidson's campaign manager Kristin Stoner, while admitting the move was uncommon, branded it a backroom political deal. She said Davidson was busy in Harrisburg, where Gov. Tom Wolf was delivering his budget address amid an ongoing standoff on a spending plan with GOP leaders in the Legislature.

A challenge from within the party is not new ground for the two-time winner Davidson. She had to fend off a challenge from attorney Billy Smith two years ago.

The primary is April 26. The winner will go on to face Republican Indr Bains.

The district obviously has changed since the days when Republican Mario Civera represented it for more than two decades.

Keep your seat belts on. This one is going to be a bump ride.

Your early-morning report from the roads

Here's a quick report from the roads after my early-morning commute.

I was somewhat surprised to find that it was still snowing when I left the house this morning. That's the bad news. The good news is that the roads are not bad at all.

Again, for the most part I encountered only wet roads, especially on the major highways such as West Chester Pike, the Route 1 Bypass and Springfield Road.

The biggest challenge I had was brushing off the snow and ice that accumulated on the windshield before I pulled out of the driveway. One caution: Be careful on those first steps out of the house. The walkways and driveway have a coating of fairly slick snow on them. No one needs to start their day with a nasty tumble.

And yes, I did encounter a few snow-covered spots on side roads, but nothing that would be considered a major problem. Of course, that's with no one on the road, one of the few perks of this work schedule. Once everyone gets out there this morning, I'm guessing things might get a little messier.

We are supposed to see a few more flurries this morning, but the big news as we head toward the weekend is expected to be a bitter cold blast.

* Here's your full traffic report from the region.

* And here is your complete AccuWeather forecast.