Friday, August 28, 2015

The Daily Numbers for Friday, Aug. 28

The Daily Numbers: 50,000 tickets for the regional rails for Saturday, Sept. 26 for pope visit.

60,000 tickets sold for Sunday.

175,000 tickets SEPTA had planned to sell for both days.

200,000 tickets still available.

600 Pa. National Guard troops being sought by Montgomery County for help with traffic and security for the pope weekend.

0, how much teachers and staff will be getting paid in Chester Upland School District. The ailing district says it does not have the money to make its payroll.

300 teachers and staff who say they will be on the job to open the schools anyhow.

2.8 million dollars awarded in a malpractice case against Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

2, as in Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East 2 pipeline, which has now drawn fire in the form of a civil action by the Clean Air Council.

14 incidents of thefts from cars being reported in Nether Providence. Police are urging residents to lock their cars.

30 million dollars in grants, loans incorrectly handled by Cheyney University, according to state audit.

111 times that a New Jersey teacher was late for work. He’ll still get to keep his job.

58, age of former Sixer Darryl Dawkins, better known as ‘Chocolate Thunder.’ He died yesterday of heart failure.

14 seasons Dawkins spent in the NBA.

12 points, 6.1 rebounds in 726 NBA games in Dawkins’ career.

2 backboards that exploded under the fury of his slam dunks.

5-0 lead for the Phillies that disappeared in a 9-5 loss to the Mets.

4-game sweep for the Metropolitans.

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

RIP, Darryl Dawkins. The original rim rattler.

I Don’t Get It: What happened to all those people mobbing the regional rails for the visit by Pope Francis. SEPTA yesterday said they still had 200,000 tickets available.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to teachers and staff in Chester Upland, who yesterday indicated they would still report and open the schools, even though the district doesn’t hae the money to pay them.

Quote Box: “This kind of commitment goes beyond what we ever want to ask of our staff, but as we continue to explore every possible legislative, fiscal and legal avenue to secure funds, their sacrifice is much appreciated.”

- Chester Upland Receiver Francis Barnes, on word that teachers would report to work without pay.

Sales of papal regional rail passes not exactly heavenly

What if they gave a papal Mass and nobody came?

Well, I don't think that's going to happen. Still, I have to admit I was startled at yesterday's update from SEPTA, in particular the numbers when it comes to sales of those special regional rail passes for the weekend of the visit by Pope Francis in late September. Remember, you can't use the system without one of the special passes, and only certain stations will be operating on the routes, which will funnel folks from the suburbs downtown.

For months the drumbeat was of massive throngs descending on those 18 stations, including Primos Station which is basically in our backyard here at the Daily Times.

Now, I'm not so sure.

SEPTA yesterday said they had sold only about 50,000 passes for Saturday, and maybe 60,000 for Sunday. Yes, those are double and triple the usual weekend regional rail ridership. But it's nowhere near what SEPTA expected. The transit agency put 175,000 passes on sale for each day.

Officials indicated as many as 10,000 people could descend on beautiful downtown Primos to get on those early-morning trains on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26 and 27.

But SEPTA now has more than 200,000 passes on their hands, and they're hoping sales pick up.

That's probably why this week the tone of the officials in the city and the World Meeting of Families has changed. There is less talk of commuting snags, a traffic box, logistics and long walks to venues. In its place there is the 'Francis Festival Grounds.' And a huge push to get people excited about the papal visit.

It was expected that 1.5 million people or more would descend on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sunday for Pope Francis' outdoor Mass.

So I ask you, are you taking the 'over' or 'under' on that number.

Based on sales of those regional rail passes, I'm leaning toward the under.

Some thoughts on the graphic world we live in

I used our editorial page today to talk about the insidious nature of what happened when a madman decided to execute a television reporter and her cameraman on live TV.

And also what he did after this despicable act.

It has serious ramifications for those of us who toil in this business.

Those are the kinds of decision I make every day.

I'd be interested if you agree.

It's on our editorial page.

The coolest nickname in sports: RIP, 'Chocolate Thunder'

There have been lots of cool nicknames in sports.

But there was only one "Chocolate Thunder."

It's still hard to believe that the man-child, Darryl Dawkins, is gone.

The Sixers' great died Thursday at the age of 58.

Yes, Darryl Dawkins was 58.

I know, it's hard to believe.

That's because this ever-smiling giant of a man always carried with him a child's smile.

Dawkins entered the game literally as a child, the first player in NBA history to go from high school to the pros.

Dawkins will forever be known for his ferocious dunks, which earned him that all-time moniker, "Chocolate Thunder." I can still remember watching the first time one of those fiberglass backboards shattered under the fury of a Dawkins' dunk.

Dawkins spent 14 seasons in the NBA, the bulk of them with the Sixers, along with stops in New Jersey, Utah and Detroit. He averaged 12 points and 6.1 rebounds in 726 games.

But those numbers aren't what he will be remembered for, not that they're not respectable numbers.

Actually, in recent years, through his work with the Sixers, Dawkins became that most unlikely of sports characters, a truly decent and likeable guy.

As I approach 60, it's hard for me to fathom that "Chocolate Thunder" is gone at 58.

Columnist Jack McCaffery offers an appreciation of a most special Philadelphia athlete.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Daily Numbers for Thursday, Aug. 27

The Daily Numbers: 24 million dollars, what Michael Markman and his firm BET Investments, paid for the Granite Run Mall.

2 stores that remain open at the site, Sears and Boscov’s.

15 of November to 15 of December, when demolition of the rest of the mall is likely to occur. It will be replaced by a town center style development mixing residential and retail.

1 person struck and killed by an Amtrak train in Norwood last night.

8.7 million dollars the Chester Upland School District already owes charter schools. That’s part of the reason a Delco judge nixed a new financial recovery plan, because it did not address this debt.

23 million dollar deficit for the troubled school district. That is expected to grow to $40 million by the end of the school year.

2 million dollars in state aid available to Delco municipalities affected by June’s severe summer thunderstorm that rocked the region.

10 minute storm with winds of 70 mph that wreaked havoc, especially in western Delco.

1,000 pages of documents in the Kathleen Kane probe released yesterday by the courts. They contain hundreds of porn emails that Kane alleges were routinely swapped by office members under her predecessor.

46 percent of registered voters in Pa. who believe Attorney General Kathleen Kane should resign, according to new Frannklin & Marshall poll.

54 percent of of Republicans want her to go; just 47 percent of Independents; and 40 percent of Democrats.

2 in 5 - 39 percent - in Pa. believe Gov. Tom Wolf is doing excellent or good job.

54 percent believe the Legislature is more at fault for the state budget standoff; 29 percent point finger at Wolf 66 percent believe state lawmakers should not be paid during the standoff.

2 TV station employees killed during live report yesterday morning in Virginia.

12 consecutive life terms without parole for Colorado movie theater rampge gunman James Holmes.

2 U.S. soldiers killed by an Afghan solider at a military base in western Afghanistan.

3 runs surrendered by Phils’s starter Jerad Eickhoff in 1st inning vs. Mets last night.

1 error on fly ball that proved costly in that inning.

16 straight retired by Eickhoff at one point after the 1st inning.

6 innings pitched by Eickhoff, 4 runs and 6 strikeouts in his 2nd start for Phils.

42, age of Bartolo Colon, who got the win for the Mets.

8 straight wins for Mets over Phils.

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

The only thing worse than a losing streak is losing to the Mets.

I Don’t Get It: No, we don’t have issues in this country with gun violence and mental health. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the staff at WDBJ in Virginia, who were tasked with working under the worst imaginable conditions yesterday after two of their co-workers were gunned down during a live report.

Quote Box: “The ruling ensures that Chester’s children will be able to return to their classrooms, next month, at the same time that the rest of the students across the Comonwealth will.”

- Vahan Gureghian, head of Chester Community Charter School, after judge’s ruling rejecting state plan to cut reimbursements to charter schools.

Welcome to my world

This one is personal.

We run a lot of stories every day in print and online.

A lot of those stories deal with very sad, tragic incidents.

And the bottom line is that a lot of those stories also make some people very angry.

They are upset about what we reported, sometimes they way we reported it, or simply are looking to vent at someone at the newspaper. That usually brings them to me.

Every day I field phone calls from readers who are irate with something we've reported.

Sometimes they even come into the office.

It's not exactly a part of the job that I relish. But it's also one of the most important things I do here every day. I always listen carefully to what the people have to say, and offer an explanation as to why we did what we did.

I also almost always someone who is unhappy with our coverage the opportunity to write a letter or a piece for our op-ed pages offering their version of events or why they think we got it wrong.

I'll be honest. Sometimes we just flat got something wrong. When that happens, we correct that information.

But most of the time, I'm in a situation where I know I am not going to assuage this person's visceral feelings for me - or the newspaper. I understand why that is. Many times these people are grieving and simply want to vent. If they want to yell at someone for awhile, I allow them to do that.

Sometimes people who are upset with the newspaper are not satisfied with a phone call. Sometimes they want to tell me what they think face to face.

When that happens, I bring them into my office and again listen intently to what they have to say. I offer my version, and again usually they just want to tell me what they think. I give them that opportunity.

I was thinking about that yesterday as I followed the details of the horrific incident in Virginia where a television reporter and her cameraman were gunned down while they were doing a live report. Both died. The woman they were interviewing was wounded but is expected to recover.

In this case, it turned out the suspect, who later took his own life, was a disgruntled employee.

Two things went through my mind as I followed the story.

One, I wonder just what it is that could push a person to that edge, and the many times I've dealt with people who felt aggrieved at something the newspaper did. It's not an especially comforting feeling.

But in the ensuing unsettling minutes and hours, I again confronted something about what I do for a living that was less than reassuring.

The way we deliver information to readers has fundamentally changed. When an incident such as yesterday's tragedy occurs, the early-morning timing of the event makes print seem like eons away. We won't print again until the next morning. It becomes an online story. And that is part of the problem.

We are not alone online.

The gunman in this case (I don't feel the need to use his name and give him a morsel of what he wanted) captured the entire incident on video and posted it online.

It's a lit

tle bit like knocking over that first domino in one of those intricate displays. You sit back and watch it cascade from there. The video exploded on social media. It was all over Twitter and Facebook, as was the live video from the TV station. The shooter's Facebook post containing the video he shot quickly "went viral," which is the new buzzword of our lives. At least at first.

The auto-play feature on many Twitter and Facebook accounts meant the video played even before some people realized what it was.

Fairly quickly the online world was abuzz with something else, pleas not to view or share the shocking video.

That's called editing. That's the kind of decision I make every day.

We did not use or post the video. We also did not use any of the stills taken from the video that wire services moved yesterday that clearly show the suspect pointing a gun at his victim.

Today we mourn reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, killed while doing their jobs, something we do every day.

And we wonder about the world we live in, our role in it, and the job we do every day.

Yesterday, I had a fundamental decision to make as the editor of the Daily Times and DelcoTimes.com. But every user of social media and consumer of online information got to make a similar decision.

Welcome to my world.

2 big questions loom for Chester Upland

There are two big questions looming over the Chester Upland School District this morning.

Parents and children have to still be wondering what will happen when - or maybe the correct word is 'if' - schools open next week.

The other is something the district has been dealing with for decades. What is the answer to the district's fiscal woes.

All of this is part of the fallout from this week's court ruling that saw a Delco judge reject the state's attempt to radically reduce charter school reimbursements.

State officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, had made it clear they were not sure if Chester Upland would be able to open without the changes they sought. And even if they did, they warned it was entirely possible the red ink the district is awash in would force them to close the doors before the end of the school year.

The district is looking at a $23 million deficit, one that state officials believe could balloon to $40 million by the end of the school year.

Wolf said he was disappointed in the ruling and is mulling his options at this point in terms of an appeal.

Here is today's update with reaction to the court ruling.

And here is our editorial. The answer to Chester Upland's woes likely lies in the Legislature, and changing the formula used to reimburse charter schools that was part of the original law that created charter schools.

Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen anytime soon. How are those budget talks going?

In the meantime, the children and families of Chester Upland continue to suffer.