Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Daily Numbers for Tuesday, June 30

The Daily Numbers: 1 single DUI charge, the only charge a jury convicted Jonathan Vanderhorst on in the fatal crash the took the life of popular college athlete Dante DeSimone outside the Clifton Heights McDonald’s.

6 months in prison, maximum penalty for the charge.

4 hours, how long the jury deliberated before reaching their verdict.

5 million bucks, what Delaware County wants from Pennsylvania to offset storm damage from last week’s wild winds and rain.

2.5 million dollars in damage in Chester alone.

280,000 Atlantic Electric customers in Jersey who lost power in last week’s storm.

220,000, how many lost power during Hurricane Sandy.

568 cutstomers in Gloucester County still without power Monday night.

5,000 dollars to a Delco entrepreneur HeadRoom from PECO.

15 hours until the deadline for a new budget to be in place in Pa. It doesn’t look promising.

30.2 billion dollar budget plan that will be put on governor’s desk by Republicans. Gov. Wolf is vowing to veto it.

800 million dollars in new education funding being sought by Wolf.

11 billion dollars, how much state actuaries say a GOP plan to shave pension costs would save.

95,000 dollar fine for Sunoco Logistics to settle a civil complaint over a spills tied to drilling in western Pa.

350 point nosedive for the stock market yesterday.

3 months, how long Andy MacPhail says he will simply observe the Phillies operation before taking over as president in October.

7-4 loss for the Phils a few hours after the official MacPhail arrival.

18,423 rattling around in Citizens Bank Park for last night’s game on a gorgeous summer night.

3rd round draft pick, what Ron Hextall and the Flyers for for Zac Rinaldo in dealing him to the Bruins.

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

The Phillies have a new face. It’s not Andy MacPhail. It’s John Middleton, who stepped out of the shadows as the man in charge of Phillies ownership yesterday.

I Don’t Get It: Does every disagreement have to be rooted in race? Just wondering.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to Bo Ryan. The Chester native and former Chester High standout announced the upcoming season will be his last as head coach at Wisconsin. He will retire after the season. Chester Proud.

Quote Box: “How do you get political when people are hungry?”

- Chester Township Councilwoman Angela Prattis, on disagreement with Brookhaven officials over use of a storm shelter.

The Vanderhorst verdict: Looking for answers

Here's what we know about the accident that took the life of Dante DeSimone on Jan 12, 2014.

Jonathan Vanderhorst was driving east on Baltimore Pike and attempted to turn left into the McDonald's. His Ford Taurus collided with a pickup truck operated by Mark Greenslade, who was heading west on the Pike.

The impact sent the truck up onto the sidewalk outside the McDonald's, where DeSimone and some friends were walking. The truck struck DeSimone, as well as one of his friends, Tim Robison.

DeSimone, a very popular athlete who had graduated from Upper Darby HIgh, where he played ice hockey and lacrosse for four years and was captain of the lacrosse team, died of his injuries. He had been home for the Christmas break after completing his first semester at Neumann University.

Eventually Vanderhorst was charged with a host of charges, including homicide by vehicle while DUI, aggravated assault while DUI and DUI rendering him incapable of operating a motor vehicle.

But yesterday a Delaware County jury, after hearing conflicting testimony in terms of whether Vanderhorst was impaired, acquitted him of all but a single charge of DUI.

The prosecution had argued that medical tests showed Vanderhorst was under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, as well as the anti-anxiety drug Clonazepam, for which he had a prescription. The defense's witnesses disputed findings that Vanderhorst was impaired at the time of the accident.

The jury agreed.

Moments after I posted the initial verdict on our website, it exploded with comments of outrage at the verdict.

I understand their feelings.

We want to know why a great kid like Dante DeSimone was taken so young, and we want to blame someone for it. I don't question those who trash the system and rant about justice in Delaware County.

At the same time, I also feel a bit for Vanderhorst. His face has appeared on the front page of this newspaper any number of times in connection with this incident. I wonder how many people will remember that he was acquitted of most of the serious charges. That's one of the reasons it was our lead story today, and not simply tucked inside.

Is it possible this tragic incident was something else altogether, simply an accident. Two cars collided. One went out of control and took a young man's life.

It is natural to look to assign blame.

I feel for the DeSimone family. I also feel for the plight of Vanderhorst.

We report the news; we don't have all the answers. Certainly we don't in this sad case.

Budget & Booze on tap in Harrisburg

We're about to find out what Tom Wolf is made of.

Remember those four years of on-time - if austere - budgets delivered by former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett? They're history. There's a new sheriff in town. Unfortunately, his posse is controlled by Republicans.

The Democrat Wolf has made clear he wants a huge spike in spending, with much of the money going to education, which suffered under the Corbett administration. In order to get them, he wants to increase the state income and sales taxes, as well as slapping a new extraction tax on natural gas drilling in the state.

That is not exactly music to Republicans' ears.

They're ready to put their own spending plan, which very much resembles the kind of fiscal blueprint Corbett delivered for four years, on the governor's desk.

That's when we'll find out just how serious Wolf is about his new vision for Pennsylvania.

So far he's given no indication that he would sign such a measure. If he vetoes it, it's very likely that the state could be looking at some kind of at least partial shutdown when the clock hits midnight tonight, the deadline for the state to have a spending plan in place.

Yesterday Wolf went so far as to send a letter to state workers and some contractors warning them of a possible shutdown. Adding to the intrigue in Harrisburg is two other measures being pushed by Republicans - both of which are opposed by Wolf. One would privatize the sale of wine and liquor in the state, the other would change pension benefits for future state and public school employees.

It's ironic that the privatization battle - which has been talked about for years but consistently gone nowhere - comes on the same day that Wawa is entering the fray. The Delco-based convenience store giant will go before the powers that be in Concord tonight, looking to get the OK to sell beer at their store on Naamans Creek Road. It would be the first time Wawa has sold beer in Pa., although they already sell suds in other states.

Full confession here: Yes, I am the state's foremost proponent of getting Pennsylvania out of the booze business. I have said many times that my position has nothing to do with what I know are some very important factors - whether or not the numbers add up. I know the LCB operations add a ton of revenue to the state's coffers every year, to say nothing of providing a lot of good jobs. My point has always been that the state has no business being in the sale of booze, and that our archaic laws make buying beer and wine ridiculously difficult.

There is a chance that Wolf, who has been clear in his opposition to privatization, may have to bend a bit in order to get what he wants from Republicans who control the Legislature.

If that means privatization arrives in Pennsylvania, I'm all for it.

But I'll also say something else I've said a million times. I'll believe it when I see it.

It's 6:30 a.m. Do you know where your state budget is?

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, will Tom Wolf or Republicans turn into pumpkins.

Or perhaps pumpkin ales.

Stay tuned.

A new face for the Phillies - 2 of them

The Phillies rolled out a new face of the organization yesterday.

Actually, two of them.

Sure, everyone was expecting the announcement that longtime baseball exec Andy MacPhail would replace Pat Gillick as team president.

MacPhail plans to spend three months analyzing the entire Phillies organization before he takes the reins from Gillick in October. One of his biggest decisions will be the fate of embattled General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

But maybe just as important was the other guy who dominated yesterday's afternoon press conference.

That would be John Middleton, the cigar biz baron who clearly stepped out of the shadows to take a much bigger role with the team.

For years the Phillies' ownership has been for the most part anonymous, preferring to stay out of the limelight - and headlines. But times have changed. So has ownership. For the most part, the team is now controlled by Middleton and the Buck family.

Now Middleton appears ready to put his stamp on the team.

Yesterday's announcement of MacPhail, the first time the team has gone outside the organization in anyone's memory, was step one.

Here's columnist Jack McCaffery's take on a very interesting day for the Phillies.

Oh, and other thing. Some things don't change. The Phillies and Sean O'Sullivan blew a lead last night and lost their series opener to the Brewers.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Daily Numbers for Monday, June 29

The Daily Numbers: 5 people arrested in major meth bust in Upper Darby.

10,000 dollar reward offered for information in the fatal shooting of Thomas Childs at a Yeadon trucking business.

83 million dollar pricetag for Burman’s Specialty Pharmacy.

1896, when singing icon Ethel Waters was born - in Chester. Yesterday the city unveiled a marker to honor the songstress.

1 escaped prisoner shot and killed in New York; the other was later shot and captured.

67, age of Chris Squire, who played bass for the classic rock band Yes. He died over the weekend.

1,500 line crews who responded to Delco to help PECO restore power.

2 days until the deadline for a new state budget to be in place in Harrisburg. It does not look promising.

112-77 House vote to pass a GOP version of the budget on Saturday.

1 woman struck and killed by train near Ambler on Sunday.

1 dead, 2 injured in shooting incident in Philly.

3 people killed when small plane that took off from Lancaster slammed into a house near Boston.

8-5 win for the Phils in the nightcap to split Sunday double-header with the Nats.

3-2 win for Stephen Strasburg and D.C. in the opener.

4 hits for Cesar Hernandez in the win.

26-48 mark for Ryne Sandberg with Phils this year. He stepped down on Friday.

119-159 record for Sandberg in his two years with the team

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

Ryne Sandberg deserved better.

I Don’t Get It: There are still a lot of people in South Jersey who do not have power - six days after that storm hit. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the move yesterday in Chester to erect a marker to denote the birthplace of Ethel Waters, a Chester native.

Quote Box: “Ethel Waters was a star.”

- Chester Mayor John Linder.

An 'Amazing' week for the president - & the nation

I was dumbstruck by something I saw online on Saturday.

There is actually nothing all that unusual about hearing someone singing 'Amazing Grace' at a funeral service.

Except this was not just anyone.

This was the president of the United States.

I posted a video clip of President Obama's impromptu version of the old spiritual, which he delivered while offering the eulogy for one of the victims of the mass shooting inside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

I prefaced that post with something I will repeat here. I understand that some people will call Obama's performance calculated, or a political stunt, or playing to the audience. You are welcome to that opinion. Be my guest.

I will disagree.

In fact, I will go so far as to ask if anyone can tell me when a president had a week as astounding as the one President Obama delivered last week.

First, he had to console the nation in the immediate aftermath of the Charleston shooting. To be honest, I thought he was too quick to draw a link to the battle over gun control in this nation.

A few days later, he was handed a second major victory on his health care bill when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal subsidies that are crucial to the Affordable Care Act are constitutional.

Then, on Friday morning, the high court followed that ruling with another, declaring that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right in all 50 states.

In each instance, the president's words perfectly framed the debate. He talked about freedom, and how when one of us becomes more free, we are all better for it.

Then on Friday he went to Charleston. He talked about grace, and how this tragic event still had the power to infuse us with grace.

And that's when he broke into song.

As I watched it, I could think of only one word. Wow, just wow.

Then I thought back to the front page I created for Obama's first inauguration. It was led with a simple, two-word hed: Mr. President. I know this is not going to change the minds of anyone. But the man has a knack for rising to the occasion.

I can think of no president who has had to endure the kind of divisive - even hate-filled - rhetoric that has been hurled at this leader. And I think we all know why.

This comes from someone who thought too many did a huge disservice to then-President George W. Bush. I can see why Republicans and conservatives developed a true dislike for the media in those years. We gave them them plenty of ammunition.

But nothing comes close to what has been heaped on President Obama.

All of which makes a week like last week only that much more meaningful.

The guy had a helluva week.

"Amazing," you might say.

New meets old

New meets old. It happened today in my weekly print column.

As you might have guessed, I'm the old.

So is something we did last week. It's our annual salute to high school grads. We call it the Grad Tab.

But it got a bit of a new spin when I decided to tease it before it actually came out in print on Twitter and Facebook.

Corinne Blair took it from there.

She's the Interboro grad who appears on our cover.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.