Friday, February 29, 2008

The name game for Chester team

OK, the MLS team that is going to call Chester home is in need of a name.

You can find some information by by clicking here.

There is talk of a contest to help come up with the proper moniker. I hereby volunteer the services of the newspaper to help team owners gauge the pulse of the good folks here in Delco.

One of the things that pleased me the most about yesterday's festivities is that almost to a person, all those in attendance made note that this team in fact will call Chester home.

Not Philadelphia, right here in Delaware County.

Being the parochial newspaper editor who has been accused more than once of being something of a homer in this matter, I would love to see Chester or Delco represented in the team's name.

I also know it's not going to happen.

I'm not about to let that stop me. I have previously offered two possibilities.

One was a way to pay homage to another icon of Chester industry. After all, just down the road from the stadium is Harrah's Casino, which sits on the hallowed ground of the former Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.

So my idea? The Chester Sun. That one didn't sit too well with the fanatical members of the Sons of Ben, who roundly criticized that offering.

How about this as an alternative, something of a takeoff on the world's most famous soccer team.

Chester United.

It's perfect, unifying the city (which could sorely use it), as well as the region, and, oh yes, those fine denizens of Philadelphia who we expect to troop down I-95 to the games.

Having said that, I will tell you that the leaders in the clubhouse are something like Philadelphia Athletics or Philadelphia Independence.

You can check out some other possibilities on some of the by clicking here.

Have an idea for a name? Post it here. We'll be sure to forward them on to the team.

Here's some other info on how to contact the team.

Team Web Site: www.mlsphilly2010.com/home.html

E-mail: info@mlsphilly2010.com

Phone: (877) MLS-2010

Tickets: info.comcasttix.com/forms/MLSPhilly2010 ($50 deposit for each seat, minimum of two, maximum six seats per account holder.)

Ticket information: www.mlsphilly2010.com/story2.html

Supporter Web Site: www.sonsofben.net

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 29

The Daily Numbers: 2:12 p.m. yesterday, when Chester became a Major League city again, with the announcement that Major League Soccer’s 16th franchise will call it home.


12 years it took for the soccer league to break into the Philadelphia market, the largest market in the nation that had not been represented.


27 years since professional soccer, in the form of the Atoms, was played in the Philadelphia area.


50 bucks, what it will cost you now to reserve your seat for when the team starts playing in 2010. Now word yet on how much tickets will cost.


2,500 season tickets already committed to by the Sons of Ben, the local soccer fanatics who have been pushing to lure a franchise here for years.


200 members of the group that descended on the Turbine Room at the Wharf at Rivertown for the festivities. Yes, they made their presence known.


200 additional jobs in Philadelphia planned by US Airways, which wants to open as many as 6 new gates at Philadelphia International.


23, age of youth soccer coach from Montgomery County who is going to jail for sending sexually explicit messages to a teen girl he met at a summer youth camp.


87, age of man a 29-year-old Upper Darby woman is accused of beating with a belt buckle. She was a health aide at a care facility in King of Prussia. He suffers from Alzheimer’s. Nice.


52, age of former fire chief in New Jersey charged with sexually assaulting several juveniles ranging in age from 12 to 16.


9 percent dip in profits for Citizens Financial Group, the people that run Citizens Bank. Guess they won’t be buying naming rights for the Chester stadium.


80 million of the 90 million dollar goal raised by Episcopal Academy. They’re building a new campus in Newtown Square.


11 new tanks that will be constructed by Magellan Midstream Partners at the Port of Wilmington. They will store gas there for Wawa stores.


72 teacher vacancies in the Philadelphia School District. There are more than 10,000 teachers in the district.


0 events this summer at the Robin Hood Dell East center in Philly. It will be closed for repairs. It’s hit a sour note with a lot of people.


4 suspects who have been charged with an attack on two young Jewish men on the Temple University campus.


16 million bucks the city is hoping to raise for parks and street repairs by hiking parking taxes. Council now also is targeting some valet parking operators, who they claim are not reporting all their income in a way to get around the tax.


2 dozen rooftop burglaries in Pa. and New Jersey that police now believe may be the work of twin brothers who also star in a series of gay porn videos.


1 of every 100 adults in America now resides behind bars.


1,200 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade headquartered at Fort Indiantown Gap that could be headed for Iraq.


2 straight wins for the Flyers, who polished off the Ottawa Senators last night, 3-1.


1 massive blast already this spring for Ryan Howard, who deposited a pitch in the swamp beyond the right-field fence at Bright House Field yesterday.


0 free agents signed as of 8 a.m. by the Eagles. Look for them to make a splash, including the much-rumored signing of Patriots DB Asante Samuel.


1 less perenially injured defense end, after the Birds cut Jevon Kearse yesterday. Can you say Freak Out?


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So what are people talking about today? Phillies, Eagles and free agency, or soccer in Chester.
*


I Don’t Get It: The kid who was lauded by many, including President Bush, for blowing the whistle on his friend’s planned Columbine-style attack on Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School is now in trouble with the law. He and a couple of his pals are charged with breaking into the home of the kid charged in the plot. I don’t get it.


*


Today’s Upper: Chester, a major league town. Ya gotta love it.


*


Quote Box: “Timing in life is everything and the time is right today to bring soccer to Philadelphia.”

-- Nick Sakiewicz, the CEO of the planned MLS team that will play in Chester, at yesterday’s announcement.

One giant leap for Chester

Today is Leap Day. And it’s never been more appropriate for the only city in Delaware County.

Yesterday Chester took one giant leap forward. You might say it became a major league city again.

Especially if you happen to be a soccer fan.

At exactly 2:12 p.m. Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber strode to the microphone and confirmed what has to be one of the worst-kept secrets in sports history. The city of Chester has been awarded the 16th franchise in MLS history.

I keep trying to get a grip on just how momentous a day this was for Chester.
I think maybe that was best indicated by one of the seemingly endless parade of local, county and state officials who took turns at the microphone to welcome the sports world to Delaware County.

It was something that state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, said that struck a chord with me.

Pileggi knows a little something about Chester. He served as its mayor. He knows what the city once was, how far it declined, and he played a large part in planting the seeds to the economic rebirth now starting to bloom in the city.

Pileggi has lived in the city for half a century.

“I’ve never seen a day like today,” he admitted.

I feel the same way. There are a lot of people who believe that part of the city’s perception problem stems from the way it is too often portrayed in the county’s daily newspaper. There is probably a grain of truth in that.

Don’t get me wrong. Chester still has serious problems.

But to claim that an equally serious turnaround there is not underway is simply to ignore the obvious. Yesterday’s announcement that an MLS franchise will play its games in a $115 million stadium to be built in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge is the crown jewel in that economic renaissance.

This newspaper has been a big proponent of the stadium project. I said so again last night on WPHT Talk Radio 1210. Host Dom Giordano asked me to come to talk about the stadium. He’s not a big fan of this kind of “boondoggle,” especially when it comes to using a big chunk of public funds to do it.

I disagree, and offered my reasons why.

The truth is if this was just a stadium, I probably still would be in favor of it. Anything that helps the city of Chester is a good thing in my book. But this is much more than just a stadium.

The owners/developers will use the stadium as the linchpin of a $500 million development along the riverfront that will make the city of Chester a destination point, and something to rival anything available in Wilmington or Camden.
Not everyone agrees. I don’t expect them to.

In the meantime, Chester once again is a ‘Major League’ city.
First-class, as Gov. Ed Rendell suggested in his comments.

Feb. 29.
Make that one giant leap for Chester.
*
Just so everyone will not feel as if I've become a total 'homer' for this project, I will point out this bit of irony.

There are 15 public high schools in Delaware County. There are 14 boys soccer teams.

Guess which school does not have one? The once the 16th franchise in Major League Soccer will call home.

I hope that changes. The kids in Chester deserve better.

The Stadium by the Numbers

For those of you who are regular readers, you know that most days I put something together called ‘The Daily Numbers.’

Here’s a special version taking a look at some of the numbers tied to the stadium development along the Chester riverfront that was announced yesterday.

115 million dollar price tag, including $47 million in state funds and $30 million from the county.

18,500 seats.

60 acres.

1,000 construction jobs.

1 million man hours to build.

360 permanent jobs at stadium.

800 jobs at surrounding office complex.

500 million dollar total for planned riverfront project, of which the stadium is just one part.

200,000 -square-foot convention center.

44,215 square feet of retail space.

435,000 square feet of office space.

386 town homes.

225 apartments.

1 Major League Soccer franchise to play in the stadium.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How to get tickets

Here's a Q&A Section that will answer a lot of questions about how to get tickets.

One thing we don't know as yet.

How much will tickets cost. Sounds like they are trying to make if affordable for all types of fans, however.

Philly MLS Web site

Here's a cool site with some more info about the new MLS team in Chester.

Guess I'm going to have to resign myself to the idea that this team will be referred to as a Philadelphia entity, even if they play their games in Chester.

I will say, however, that I was fairly impressed with the mention and play that the city received by all those involved in today's festivities.

Name that Team!

2:23 Gov. Ed Rendell announces Chester will return to being a first class city again and also announces team has committed to a contest to name the team?

My two entries? Chester Sun,

or how about Chester United.

Yes, I know I'm a homer. But I want to be sure everyone knows this team is going to pay its games in the city of Chester.

2:40 A small parade of Delco officials talking about Chester and soccer. Sen. Dominic Pileggi, state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, County Councilman Jack Whelan and now the guy who will actually be running the team, Nick Sakiewicz.

It's a party.

The festivities end with Bryan James, president of the Sons of Ben local soccer fanatics, presenting special scarves to each owner. They emplazoned with Chester 2010. Well done, Bryan.

OFFICIAL!

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber makes if official at exactly 2:12 p.m.

The Philadlephia region gets the 16th franchise in the MLS.

Packed house in Turbine Room at Wharf at Rivertown goes bonkers.

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 28

The Daily Numbers: 140 feet above Folcroft, where two Peco workers found themselves stranded until they were snatched by a Coast Guard helicopter rescue team.


7 months since word first leaked out about a proposal to build a soccer stadium in Chester. Major League Soccer will be in town today to award the city of Chester its 16th franchise.


2,500 season tickets for the team’s games that the Sons of Ben, a group of local soccer fanatics, has pledged to buy for the games.


115 million dollars, the price tag for the stadium, including $47 million from the state and $30 million from the county.


0 real estate taxes the stadium/team investors will pay until 2013. The site sits in the city’s Keystone Opportunity Zone, set up to spur economic development.


360 permanent jobs expected to be created by the stadium, in addition to hundreds of construction jobs to build the joint.


60 acres along the waterfront just south of the Commodore Barry Bridge, where the sprawling office-entertainment-residential development tied to the stadium project will sit.


160 e-mails that officials in the Spring-Ford School District say a teacher sent to a 13-year-old female student. They have severed ties with the teacher.


100,000 dollars in fur coats believed ripped off from high-end shops in the Suburban Square Shopping Center in Ardmore by a big-time burglary ring.


200,000 bucks for the war on drugs picked up by Delco District Attorney G. Michael Green from the U.S. attorney yesterday.


280 million dollar contract to build 11 new CH-47F Chinook helicopters at the Boeing plant in Ridley.


3 percent dip in net income being reported by Aqua America Inc., one of the biggest water suppliers in the region.


13 million dollars being paid for the Gateway Corporate Center off Route 202 in Chadds Ford.


6 point lead for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, according to new Quinnipiac University poll. She now leads Barack Obama 49-43 percent. She led by 16 points just two weeks ago.


34,000 dollars in fraudulent checks that police allege neighbors wrote out in the name of a Feltonville man who died last April.


85,000 more union jobs reported in Pennsylvania last year. The total of union jobs in the state now stands at 830,000.


153 million jobs now up for grabs in Saturday night’s Powerball drawing.


24, age of man now wanted in the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old in Philadelphia. The incident was sparked by a snowball fight.


8,000 bats in the Northeast states that have been killed by a mysterious disease. This has the makings of a horror movie.


18 pound chunk of ice that was thrown from a bridge in Allentown, killing a woman when it went through the windshield of her car. The 15-year-old convicted in the case will leave prison on May 13, his 21st birthday.


1,500 students who went on a rampage in Reading yesterday when an after-school gathering got out of control.


68 employees laid off by Philadelphia Newspaper Holdings, the company that owns the Inquirer and Daily News. Not good times in the news racket.


7 straight home wins for the Sixers, who took out the Magic, 101-89, at the Wachovia Center last night.


8 runs pounded out by the Phillies in their Grapefruit League opener yesterday, a resounding win over the Reds.


1 hit and 0 runs given up by Phils starter Jamie Moyer in 3 innings.


1 as in first place, for the Ottawa Senators. They fired their coach yesterday despite being atop the Eastern Conference.


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Don’t look now, but more people are talking about the Phillies’ opening day pitcher than are blabbing about the Eagles’ prospects in free agency. This is a baseball town again!
*


I Don’t Get It: Cable giant Comcast yesterday admitted they paid a lot of people to sit in the seats at a government hearing. They say they did it because they heard their critics planned a strong showing.


*


Today’s Upper: The war on drugs got a big shot in the arm yesterday when Delco D.A. Mike Green took a trip downtown to pick up some federal money to target problems in what is referred to as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.


*


Quote Box: “It starts breaking down that old perception of what the city was in 1985. I think it gives us a chance to say there’s hope and this brand is on the way up.”

-- Dr. Brian Larson, associate professor of marketing at Widener University in Chester, on the continued economic development along the city’s waterfront, which today will include announcement of a new 18,500-seat stadium in which a Major League Soccer franchise will play its games.

A big day in Chester -- and Folcroft

Welcome to confessions of a newspaper editor.

Today is a day I’ve been waiting on for a long time.

It was last summer, July in fact, that I got my first call from a staffer with some fairly startling news out of Chester.

He explained a group of investors had been in talks with the county to build a soccer stadium along the city’s waterfront. I tried not to giggle. Or ask him if he had been drinking.

He wasn’t joking. And in very short order laid out the plan. The stadium would be built to lure a Major League Soccer franchise to the region.

I’ll believe it when I see it, I muttered to myself.

This afternoon I will see it. We all will.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber will stride to a microphone today at the majestic Turbine Hall in the Wharf at Rivertown and announce that the league’s 16th franchise will play its games not far away at a site literally in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

Chester is about to become a major league city again.

This newspaper has spent no small amount of time and manpower tracking this story. There are some members of my staff who believe I am more than a bit obsessed with it.
We have been a strong booster of the project, not only of the idea of an MLS franchise coming to Chester, but of building the stadium, which includes a big chunk of public funds.

The $115 million project includes $30 million from the county and $47 million from the state. Not exactly chump change. Not everyone believes this is the correct use of public funding, nor the right way to spark economic development in depressed areas such as Chester.

But I believe it will be worth every penny.

The stadium will be the centerpiece of a $500 million development that will turn the Chester waterfront into a destination point, replete with high-end shops, restaurants and residences.

We had been hinting for about a week that the deal likely would be announced at a press conference today. Getting someone on the record to tell us that was another matter. It was for the most part all nods and winks, but no one wanted their name with it.

That changed at about 2 p.m. yesterday when the advisory on the press conference went out. We actually posted the story on our Web site, with the expected announcement, yesterday morning. Then we updated it with the official announcement.

As you might expect, I have been thinking for some time now of just how to present this story on our front page. It’s what I do. I see every story as a possible front page. I knew this was a big deal, and I know we had spent considerable time chasing it down. I wanted to be sure we gave it the proper “oomph” on our Page One.

But it’s a funny thing about news. It almost never respects how much planning you have put into a certain project. So I started to fret a bit yesterday when we first got word that two Peco workers were stranded on a pole about 150 feet over Folcroft.
I had a feeling this was going to be a good story. It was. It also had something else. It was visual. That’s something we take into consideration when we make up Page One, what kind of image we’ll be able to use with the headlines we select.
Then I heard that a Coast Guard helicopter was being dispatched from Atlantic City to snatch the two stranded workers from their lonely perch.

My graphics editor hates situations like this. He spends a lot of time and effort to take my idea and create a really stunning front page, then I tell him to tear it up and start over.

Once we saw the photos from the rescue, it really became a fairly easy decision. They were stunning. We would use the photo of one of the workers being hauled up to the copter from his perch as our lead, along with the headline “High Wire Act.”
It’s a pretty compelling front page.

We didn’t forget about the historic soccer announcement. That’s it up there in the top left corner of the page.

And we’ll be all over the announcement that Chester is a major league town again for tomorrow’s newspaper.

It’s a pretty good bet that story will dominate our front page.
Depending, of course, on what happens later today.

In this business, as I learned again yesterday, you just never know.

I guess that’s why they call it “news.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 27

The Daily Numbers: 3.89 price of diesel fuel in the region. It’s putting a huge pinch on local trucking firms. Expect those prices to show up in what you pay for just about everything.


3.13 average price for unleaded regular gasoline in the Philly region. Driving a car isn’t exactly cheap, either. Get used to walking.


102 dollars a barrel, price of crude oil yesterday. Don’t expect prices to come down anytime soon. Yep, spring can’t be far away.


12 percent hike in ridership on the regional rails reported by SEPTA. Hey, some people obviously are getting out of their cars.


800,000 to 1 million dollars the Chester Upland School District is looking to get its hands on from the personal income tax collected by the city. That move is being opposed by city officials.


36 age of woman who walked out of her job in Springfield and has not been seen since. Susanne Davis of Darby Township has not been seen since she left the Value City store on Saturday.


33 years of service for county Clerk Joyce Lamont, who is retiring. We wish her the best. She’s earned it in three decades as a fixture in the Delco Courthouse.


1 Brookhaven resident who now sits on the Penn-Delco School Board. The board was made up of 9 Aston residents until the board Tuesday night appointed Kathleen Ieradi to fill the seat vacated by former board President Dave Seitz.


25 bucks, what you can expect to shell out if you want to check more than one bag on a US Airways flight. The airline announced it will slap a $25 fee on each additional bag.


20,000 dollar jackpots believed to routinely be up for grabs in a high-stakes poker ring busted up in Delaware. And the games, held in the basement of a high-end home, had a twist. Players would be served drinks by topless women. A new twist on strip poker, I guess.


88 years old, age of man in Chester County swindled out of $26,000 in cash and jewelry when he let thives into his house posing as utility workers.


60 age of respected Montgomery photographer who now faces charges that he lifted a customer’s wallet while he was snapping pix at a bat mitzvah.


2 rapes reported in a dorm an hour apart on the campus of Kutztown University.


4 teens arrested in the wave of vandalism that has targeted churches in Bucks County.


7 people arrested in a brawl at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Philadelphia yesterday.


180,000 bucks a year, salary for the next chief operations officer at the Delaware River Port Authority. They’re the people who just kicked in $10 million to the Chester stadium project.


2 soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.


4.7 magnitude quake that rocked Britain early today. No injuries. Some minor damage. Not believed related to news that Beckham and Posh soon will be visiting Chester.


3 hours without their espresso fix for customers of Starbucks Wednesday night. The chain shut down all its shops to re-train its baristas. Now they’re going to make a money-back guarantee on their concoctions. You don’t like it, they’ll fix you another one.


2 million people who were without power for hours yesterday afternoon in South Florida when a glitch at a substation sparked widespread blackouts.


1:05 p.m., time of first pitch of Phillies Grapefruit League opener against the Reds.


29 point win last night for the girls from Delco Christian, who overwhelmed Hanover, 64-35, in a PIAA AA girls hoops playoff game.


800 wins in her stellar coaching career for Rutgers women’s hoops boss C. Vivian Stringer. She started her career at Cheyney.


0 deals at the trade deadline for the Flyers, who acquired high-scoring winger Vinnie Prospal the night before.


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The baseball season starts today in Clearwater when the Phils kick off their exhibition schedule against the Reds. Bring on the Mets.
*


I Don’t Get It: Someone explain to me why the Phils are bypassing Cole Hamels in favor of Brett Myers to pitch the season opener.


*


Today’s Upper: Starting Saturday police in New Jersey will be able to write a ticket to anyone they observe driving while using a hand-held cell phone. Good.


*


Quote Box: “When I leave the pump, it kills me. It’s really putting a stress on my business.”

-- Robert Link, owner of B&K Moving & Hauling Inc. of Havertown, on the skyrocketing cost of diesel fuel that his business depends on.

24 hours and counting

We are now just about 24 hours away from one of the biggest – and most anticipated – announcements in county history.

We only need one more thing.

Someone to say it’s actually going to happen.

If I was a betting man, I would put the house on all assortment of local and state dignitaries gathering on the Chester waterfront tomorrow afternoon.

I would think our local odd couple, the Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Republican state Senator (and former Chester Mayor) Dominic Pileggi will be on hand. So will Mayor Wendell Butler.

They will be joined by a multitude all expecting the top brass from Major League Soccer to formally announce one of the worst-kept secrets in sports history.

The city of Chester will be home to the league’s 16th expansion franchise, which will likely begin play in the 2010 season.

Yes, it will represent the Philadelphia region, but it will play its games in a $115 million stadium to be built on the Chester waterfront.

All the key players in the team and stadium development will be there. Jim Nevels, the former head of the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia who heads the Swarthmore Group financial advisers. So will Jay Sugarman, the big money guy from New York who is the leader of the group. Also all the folks from the Buccini-Pollin Group. They’re the ones who are planning to construct a $500 million development of shops, restaurants and high-end housing, all in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

Now will someone please tell us – officially – that this is in fact going to happen.
We’ve gotten lots of winks and nods about “something” happening on Feb. 28. We’ve actually had one person close to the deal tell us it “definitely” will happen on Thursday. Of course, that person “definitely” did not want to go on the record.

There is still no word from Major League Soccer. No advisory alerting us to a press conference on Thursday.

The latest is a mention on a Web forum frequented by the members of the Sons of Ben. They’re the local group of soccer fanatics who have been pushing to land a team now for years.

They’re all turning blue in the face waiting for official word that what they have been waiting for is actually going to happen Thursday.

Apparently there was some kind of meet and greet Tuesday night at which Nick Sakiewicz, the man hired to run the operations of the as-yet unannounced team, hinted at something big happening on Thursday. You can check it out here.

The suspense is killing us.

But I think it will all be worth the wait. I guess I can last another 24 hours.

Maybe.

For starters, a baffling move by Phils

Yes, I know it’s a little early to deal with a sports topic. I usually handle that one in the ‘Daily Numbers’ feature, where I lament about why it’s so hard to be a Philadelphia sports fan.

Which brings me to the issue of the day. The Phillies open their exhibition season in Clearwater today. First pitch is about 1 o’clock.

And that means we are exactly 32 days away from the season opener.

If you want to mark your calendars, that would be Monday, March 31.

If you wanted to see Cole Hamels stride to the mound in his role as the ace of the Phillies staff, don’t bother.

He’s not pitching the opener. Brett Myers is. That announcement was made by skipper Charlie Manuel yesterday. Exactly why the Phils are bypassing their young stud Hamels in favor of Myers is something of a mystery.

Maybe they want to keep the mojo going. After all, the highlight of last season was Myers tossing his glove into the air on the last day of the season after sealing the deal as the team ended their long playoff drought by winning the N.L. East. Maybe it’s a reward for the way Myers has handled the way the team has shuffled him from starter (he was the opening day pitcher last year as well), to his role as closer in the bullpen, and now back to the starting rotation. Who knows?

If that one doesn’t have your head spinning, try this one out. As the rotation sets up now, neither Myers nor Hamels would be due to pitch in the first series against the Mets, which comes in the first week of April.

Just thought I’d make your day, sports fans.

The center of the political universe?

Brace your self for another troop surge.

This one does not have anything with Iraq. It has everything to do with the war for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the role Pennsylvania could play in it.

In short, the Keystone State could be the key player in deciding the knock-down, drag-out affair between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

Of course that likely depends in no small part on whether Clinton can halt the Obama Express that has run off 11 straight primary wins.

It is now critical for Clinton to win big next Tuesday when voters in Ohio and Texas go to the polls. She must win one state and likely needs both.

Then all eyes will turn to Pennsylvania, which will become the center of the political universe for seven weeks until the Pennsylvania Primary April 22.

Both camps are already starting to move their ground organizations into the state.

It’s likely that we could see appearances – possibly several – by both candidates here in the supremely important Philadelphia suburbs.

The bitter race already has made some strange bedfellows here in Delaware County.
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont was an early backer of Hillary Clinton. He still is. So is county Democratic co-chair Mary Ellen Balchunis.

But Delco Democratic Party boss Cliff Wilson is in Obama’s camp, as is Marple leader Tony Campisi. They’re joined by new state Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161.

Just this week Democratic leaders in Darby Borough announced they were backing Obama.
This one could result in trench warfare. And that’s just within the party. In the meantime, Republicans will sit back and watch as their Democratic brethren go at it hammer and tong.

Who knew when we lamented the date of our primary, the fact that it was so late in the process, that it could end up deciding the Democratic nominee.

Keep your seat belts buckled, Dems. This one could be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 26

The Daily Numbers: 47 age of man shot and killed in what police believe was a domestic disturbance in Darby Township. The victim’s 32-year-old stepson is in custody.


148,000 dollars, salary of new William Penn School District Superintendent Joseph Bruni. The board voted 7-2 to make him the new schools boss Monday night.


50 to 60 billion dollars in student loans that could be in danger because of the nation’s growing credit crunch, according to PHEAA boss state Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield.


3.72 a gallon, what truckers are paying for diesel fuel in the Philadelphia region. That’s a record high price.


18 million bucks, what a Philadelphia jury awarded a former medical student for a fall through a manhole.


7 age of student who police say brought 2.5 ounces of crack cocaine to school Monday in Trenton, N.J.


2 hour delays for a couple dozen schools in the Allentown area, which is getting a slick coating of freezing rain. No problem in this area.


10 percent hike in what it will cost for a cab ride in Philly, under rate hike OK’d Monday. The flag drop price will remain at a base of $2.70, but charges for mileage and waiting time are going up.


11 students at Masterman Middle and High School in Philadelphia who were jumped outside the school Monday afternoon. They were attacked by an unidentified group of youths.


1 to 7 years in jail for a man convicted of leaving a Bucks County bar and then ran over a motorcyclist. The man is still recovering from his injuries. The driver was convicted of a hit-and-run charge.


16 point lead for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in a new CBS poll.


54 percent of Democratic voters now in the Obama camp, as opposed to 38 percent for Clinton.


67 percent of men who are supporting the Illinois senator, as opposed to 28 percent backing the former wife of President Bill Clinton.


19 billion dollars, what is expected to be raised in the largest-ever U.S. initial public stock offering, this one being done by credit card giant Visa.


3,800 jobs being slashed in its corporate telecom unit by German company Siemens AG.


4 trillion dollar increase, the expected rise in health care costs next year. That amounts to one of every $5 the country spends.


73 percent of drivers who admitted using a cell phone while they’re behind the wheel. Another 20 percent admit to texting while driving. A New Jersey law that goes into effect Saturday would allow police to stop those using a hand-held cell phone while driving.


8 Catholic League crowns in 14 seasons for O’Hara girls hoops coach Linus McGinty. Last night’s also was likely the last of its kind. The teams compete in the PIAA next year.


6 times in the last 10 seasons O’Hara has faced Carroll in the final. The series is even at 3-3.


0 for 7 from three-point range in the second half last night as Villanova fell to Marquette at the Wachovia Center. It might keep ‘Nova out of the NCAA Tourney.


1 million bucks, that Peter Forsberg got from the Colorado Avalanche to join them for the rest of the NHL season.


10 game losing streak snapped by the Flyers last night as they beat the Sabres, 4-3, in a shootout.


29 goals and 28 assists for forward Vinny Prospal, who the Flyers acquired from Tampa last night. That’s 29 more goals than Peter Forsberg has scored this year.


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Is there anything better than championship high school basketball at the Palestra?
*


I Don’t Get It: Since when does one of those passages of youth, a snowball fight, cost you your life. I don’t get it.


*


Today’s Upper: Delaware is teaming up with Comcast to turn up the heat on fugitives. The cable giant is allowing police to post info on wanted criminals on their On-Demand channels. We could use that in Pa.


*


Quote Box: “This is the height of arrogance from an out-of-control agency that is now trying to stifle whistleblowers, intimidate union members and discredit controllers’ commitment to safety.”

-- Patrick Forrey, national president of the air traffic controllers union, blasting comments made by an FAA spokesman concerning issues surrounding flight path changes at the airport.

Snowballing out of control

Remember when a snowball fight was part of the innocence of youth? I do.

I also will tell you that my targets were not always other kids. Yes, I threw more than my share of snowballs at people, cars and lots of other things. What can I say, I was a knucklehead.

Luckily, a lot of the things I did as a kid never had much in the way of serious repercussions.

I never once ever thought a snowball fight could put me in any danger, let alone cost me my life.

Today we know otherwise.

In Philadelphia this week, what started as a fairly innocent snowball fight cost a 15-year-old kid his life.

Yes, you’re not the only one shaking your head.


What exactly happened on the 4800 block of D Street in Feltonville, is not clear. Some say a man was hit in the face with a snowball. Another version is that a youth was hit and then complained to the man.

Apparently the man left, then returned with a gun. Police believe he shot 15-year-old Teven Rutledge. The teen was rushed to the hospital, where he died several hours later.

Oh, and one other thing. It was Rutledge’s birthday.

Unreal.

More airport turbulence

Speaking of things that aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, the turbulence continues to rumble around Philadelphia International Airport.

This time it isn’t coming from the air, and the noise of jets redirected over heavily populated areas of Delaware County. It’s happening on the ground, and it pits local Congressman Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, along with a group of air traffic controllers, against the Federal Aviation Administration.

You might remember that it was just last week that Sestak and the controllers held a press conference to blast the federal agency for the way they have implemented the flight path changes at the airport, part of the hated redesign plan targeting chronic delays at airports in the Northeast part of the country.

Bottom line is the controllers aired what they believed were safety problems in the training and the way the program was put into practice.

When those concerns were relayed to the FAA, their spokesman fired back, insisting there was nothing unsafe about the new plans and that adequate training had been offered.

But that’s not all.

Jim Peters, the FAA’s regional spokesman, hinted that the move by the controllers to oppose the flight path changes is rooted in some sour grapes over the new contract implemented by the FAA in September 2006.

He bristled at any suggestion that the new flight path plans are unsafe, calling them “outrageous.”

He also offered a little career advice for any controller who believes otherwise.
“If any controller at the Philadelphia airport believes that these procedures are unsafe, they should look for work elsewhere,” he said.

That isn’t sitting too well with either Sestak or the air traffic controllers.
Yesterday they held another press conference to label the FAA as a “rogue agency” that is “out of control.”

It’s familiar turf for Sestak, who along with County Council has led the charge against the airport redistricting plan. One of the themes he has pounded away at is his belief that the FAA has been “unaccountable” throughout the process.

It’s for that reason that he asked the Government Accountability Office to review the process the FAA used in formulating the redesign plan. It was originally hoped that might delay implementation of the changes. That didn’t work.

Now both sides continue to lob pot shots at each other.

The FAA is standing by its belief that the new flight paths are safe. An FAA spokeswoman in Washington said the agency welcomed “legitimate safety concerns, but the information has to be factual.” The clear indication is that the claims made by Sestak and the controllers simply aren’t accurate.

The controllers, as well as Sestak, are vowing not to go away, or back down.

“They have been arrogant, contemptuous in their comments, sarcastic at best,” Sestak said. “It really is a rogue agency.”

Patrick Forrey, the national president of NATCA, said his group is not backing down, nor are they going away.

Yep, the turbulence surrounding the airport doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Another chapter of Life in the Fast Lane

Let’s get to the important news first today. That’s right, it’s time for an Alycia Lane update.

It looks like the former Channel 3 anchor is off the hook for her much-publicized run-in with the gendarmes in the Big Apple back before Christmas.

A contrite Lane appeared in a New York City courtroom Monday and entered into a special program in which the charges filed against her will be dismissed – if she manages to steer clear of trouble for the next six months.

Of course, that has not always been a lock in Lane’s case. Her career in Philadelphia was accompanied by somewhat frequent visits to the gossip columns.
“I just want to say I’m so glad this is over,” Lane said yesterday as she left court surrounded by family, her lawyer and her new pal, Philly radio D.J. Chris Booker.
That makes two of us.

I always thought all the commotion surrounding Lane was a little bit silly. But it speaks to the celebrity status in which we hold those who bring the news into our homes every night on TV.

Trust me, the same does not hold true for newspapers. They also make a little more than we do for the most part. Which I am not exactly sure does not figure into the way they are treated in print when they run afoul of the law.

The truth is I think Lane probably got a bum deal in the way this thing played out. She steadfastly denied the charges, that she dropped a sexual slur on a female officer and then got physical with her after a street confrontation. Her denials never got the play that the charges did.

Our own TV columnist found his musings blasted all over another media outlet in Philly after he suggested that maybe things were not exactly as they had been portrayed by the New York cops, and that there was something of a rush to judgment against Lane.

Then again, all she has to do now is keep her nose clean and she’s off the hook.
The bottom line is that she has paid a heavy price already for getting out of that car, something by the way she never should have done.

It cost her a $700,000 gig as a local TV news anchor. She is mulling a wrongful termination suit against the station.

Here’s hoping she doesn’t go ahead with it. Here’s hoping she simply tries to put her life and career back together after this latest trip into the “fast Lane.”
My guess is that’s not the way this will play out. In fact, I would venture we have not heard the last from Lane.

As they say in the business, stay tuned.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The print column: About that presidential 'race'

Here's a look at this week's print column.
Pennsylvania is off to the races. In more ways than one.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is once again threatening to flip the “on-again, off-again” importance of the Pennsylvania Primary into the “off” position with his incredible streak of 10 straight primary wins.

Let’s review. Initially, voices across Pennsylvania were raised in anger as we sat idly by and watched a parade of voters in other states stroll into the voting booths and have their voices noted in presidential primaries.

About all Keystone State voters could do was stew about the late Pennsylvania Primary on April 22. It was widely believed that would be too late to have much influence on the two parties’ nominees.

Then a funny thing happened. Obama started winning. And he hasn’t stopped. The pundits looked at the calendar and started circling the April 22 fireworks in Pennsylvania. Suddenly, at least for Democrats, people were calling the Keystone State as the “Key” to the nomination.

But Obama didn’t get the message. He kept right on winning. The guy is hotter than the Phillies preseason expectations.

Now, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who most early polls showed with a commanding national lead over Obama, is trying desperately to avoid becoming roadkill under the Barack Express.

Most experts believe she needs to win big on March 4 in Ohio and Texas to keep her campaign viable. If she does, then all eyes will turn to Pennsylvania.
All tongues, as well.

As you might expect, the demarcation lines are being drawn across the state.
In case you haven’t noticed, regardless of who emerges victorious in the Democratic donnybrook, the party will make some history, nominating either the first woman or first African-American to lead a major party ticket in U.S. history.

That has not escaped our fearless governor, Ed Rendell. “Fast Eddie” is firmly in Hillary’s camp. During a recent sit-down with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he pointed out his belief that some white Pennsylvanians simply will not vote for Obama because he is black.

This is where you insert the memorable line uttered by James Carville in describing Pennsylvania as being Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.
Very funny. I think Rendell was foolish for uttering such a remark, knowing full well the brouhaha that would inevitably follow.

I’d like to think we’re better than that. I’d like to think this contest will not be decided by gender or the color of a candidate’s skin.

But there’s a part of me that believes that whatever the numbers, there are indeed people who think exactly as Rendell opined.

Last week, I talked to several of them.

On Tuesday, we led the paper with a story on several Delaware County Democratic leaders announcing their support for Obama. It dominated our front page, with a picture of the candidate, as well as one from a local rally held in the county to push his candidacy. The lead headline screamed, “Obama-Mania.”

Several readers called to complain about our coverage. They didn’t like the front page, or the story inside for that matter. They believed it was inaccurate and biased in favor of Obama.

I had an idea where this was going. I wasn’t wrong.

“Are you the person responsible for the front page?” one gentleman asked. I assured him I was. “I’m surprised,” he replied. “You should find a new line of work. Your headline is wrong.”

I took another look at it and then asked him what he meant.

“You say, ‘Delco Democratic leaders line up behind the man from Illinois.’ That’s not correct. These people are all from Chester.”

Now I understood. Unfortunately.

Our lead story indicated county Democratic Chairman Cliff Wilson was backing Obama. He was joined by state Rep. Bryan Lentz, from Swarthmore, and party First Vice Chairman Tony Campisi, or Marple.

It was not a formal endorsement. It wasn’t even unanimous. Party Vice Chairman Mary Ellen Balchunis is backing Clinton. So is U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.

We had a second story on a rally held by Wilson and others that night. It was held in Chester. The reader did not try to hide the connection he was making.

Several other callers made a similar argument. It wasn’t the party leaders backing Obama, it was just people in Chester. This despite the fact that the story clearly points out the diversity of the crowd in attendance, that they arrived in Chester from Springfield, Upper Darby, Norwood and Marple to voice their support for the senator from Illinois.

Having said this, I will tell you I have reservations of my own concerning Obama. And Clinton as well, for that matter. But they have nothing to do with the color of his skin or her gender.

The campaign trail is likely to get even bumpier over the next two months. My hope is that we can rise above such matters. My fear is that we’ll do just the opposite.
Race to the finish? Sounds about right.

Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at (610) 622-8818. E-mail him at editor@delcotimes.com. To visit his daily blog, the Heron’s Nest, go to www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs/delcotimes/philh/blog.html.

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 25

The Daily Numbers: 4 Academy Awards for the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” including Best Picture.


4 top acting awards, all which went to Europeans, setting the theme for the evening.


3 more days until the expected announcement by Major League Soccer that they are awarding a franchise to the city of Chester.


4 persons of interest being sought in connection with a fatal shooting in the parking lot of a Concord nightspot.


16, age of kid who was shot in Philadelphia when a friendly snowball fight took an ugly turn Sunday afternoon.


265 million dollar dip in the reserves in the state lottery surplus fund. Some state officials are blaming the advent of slot machines for the decline in lottery revenues.


4 people injured, including a Philadelphia police officer, when a cruiser collided with another car in the city’s Logan section Sunday morning.


3 story leap from a window onto South Street by a woman who was trying to flee a man who entered her apartment and attacked her.


140 acres of parkland in Quakertown that could go smoke-free as the town mulls a new smoking ban on the property.


41 people injured when a Greyhound bus overturned on I-380 in northeastern Pennsylvania Sunday.


200,000 dollar settlement in the case of an Allentown college that has closed its doors. A lot of families that got steered into high-interest loans are not satisfied.


414 million dollars in state contracts awarded to Deloitte Consulting over the last five years. Several former employees of the firm are now in Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration.


6 million dollars raised for charity by students at the annual Penn State dance marathon.


7 straight District 1 AAAA titles for the Chester boys basketball team.


36 straight wins for the Clippers in the District 1 tourney since they lost a semifinal in 2001.


1 pitch thrown this spring by Phils’ closer Brad Lidge. He’s going to undergo more surgery on his shaky knee today.


4 straight wins for the La Salle Explorers, who are making a late run to possibly get into the Big Dance.


5 straight wins for Tiger Woods. They made the movie about the wrong guy. Woods is really “Invincible.”


31 straight years the Flyers have put on their Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival to benefit local charities. It only seems like that long ago when they won their last game. They’ve now dropped 10 straight.


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yep, we’re cursed. If you were looking for Brad Lidge this spring, don’t bother. He’ll miss all of training camp with a bum knee. Can you say Danny Tartabull? Why is it this only seems to happen to the Phillies?
*


I Don’t Get It: How exactly is it that a snowball fight can escalate into a shooting, as happened in Philadelphia yesterday.


*


Today’s Upper: Now that you’ve heard “Slowly Falling,” which won the Oscar for best song last night, make sure you see the movie, “Once.” It’s just as good.


*


Quote Box: “We will not be a success if we fail to help transform the community in every way and embrace Chester as Chester embraces us.”

-- Jmaes Nevels, one of the owners who are going to bring an MLS franchise to Chester.

Heartbreak Lidge

I will remind those who may have forgotten that it was our own sports columnist Jack McCaffery who noted that it was not an especially good sign when the closer the Phillies has just acquired in a trade with the Astros showed up for the press conference on crutches.

No problem, was the standard reply from everyone involved. Lidge just had his knee cleaned up a bit. He’ll be ready to roll when the team reports to Clearwater.
Oh, really?

On Saturday Lidge, the Phils’ key off-season acquisition, strode to the mound and unfurled his first pitch of spring training.

And immediately started limping.

One pitch. One. Uno. Single.

Lidge hopped to the locker room. Later the Phils uttered the immortal words we have come to hear every spring.

“We don’t think it’s any big deal. We’re just going to shut him down for awhile.”
Today Lidge will undergo surgery on the very same knee. He likely will miss the entire spring training. And there is no guarantee he will be ready for the opener.

So far the only two stories to emerge this spring have been the team’s dispute with its slugging first baseman, Ryan Howard, one that saw them lose an arbitration hearing, and now Lidge limping to the locker room with a bum knee.

That’s not good karma.

But it is springtime in Clearwater.

Everyone was hoping the Phils can reverse the trend of the past few years when they got off to horrific starts in April and spent much of the summer trying to dig out of their hole.

So far, not much has happened in Clearwater to make you believe things have changed.

Just 'Once' could we get a good show?

No doubt everyone in Hollywood was happy to see the writers’ strike end and Tinseltown put on the glitz again last night for the Academy Awards.

So I have just one question. Why is that people whose lives depend on production values manage every year to come up with such a lame telecast.

Here’s a couple of tips for the Academy.

There are about five categories people actually care about. Those would be best song; best supporting actor and actress; best director; best actor and actress; and best picture.

If my memory serves me correct, the Academy always wisely made the best supporting actor and actress the first awards handed out to set the early pace for the marathon evening.

Not last night. I had been watching the show for an hour and had yet to see a single award I cared about.

Does anybody really give a hoot about documentary, animated feature, costume design or any of the other lesser awards?

Give them out at a luncheon and focus on the lead awards in prime time.

Also, we can live without the seemingly endless montages of great moments from the past, although last night they might have been about the only saving grace for the first hour.

A confession here. I only tuned in last night for one reason. I wanted to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova perform their nominated song, “Falling Slowly,” from “Once.”

My wife actually had to wake me from my stupor once they finally came on. It was worth it. It’s one of those songs that just gets in your head. I’ve been humming it since I saw the movie over the Christmas holiday.

It was left to my wife to rouse me once again when they announced the “Best Song” award. No contest. Hansard was magnanimous in his best Irish brogue in accepting the award.

Then the show did the unthinkable. A production that had time for every “best makeup in an animated short documentary award” cut off Irglova just as she stepped to the mike.

Luckily, someone had enough common sense to bring her back out after a commercial break to offer her heart-felt thanks.

Which is more than I can give to another Razzie-worthy TV broadcast.
Maybe it was the hangover from the strike. But the truth is this show should take about an hour and concentrate on about six awards.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

Sooner we’ll see all the women show up in red dresses. Oh, that also happened last night?

I thought I was just seeing red over the incompetence of the show.

As Alycia Turns

In the category of best performance in a courtroom drama ….

And the Oscar goes to …

Yep, it’s time for an Alycia Lane update.

The former CBS3 anchorwoman will be back in the Big Apple today for a court hearing involving her now infamous scrap with a New York City police officer.

You might remember that it was back on Dec. 16 when the news woman took another trip in the “fast Lane.”

At about 2 a.m. Sunday, she and some folks in a car she was riding in got involved in some kind of a dustup with people in a slow-moving car in front of them.

One of the people in Lane’s vehicle got out and confronted the people in the car. It turns out they were undercover police officers.

Lane got out and started snapping pictures of the situation with her cell phone.

What happened next depends on whom you talk to. Police allege Lane unloaded a sexual slur on a female officer, and also slapped her. Lane denies doing any such thing.
The anchorwoman found herself in the headlines – again – after she was arrested and spent most of the day in the slammer in New York City.

Lane was placed on leave by her station CBS3, and then was fired two weeks later.
She continues to deny the police version of events in the altercation, and has been making legal filings against the station that most believe is the prelude to a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

She might get some more ammo for her case today.

All signs indicate to a deal in which Lane will walk on the charges, so long as she has no other run-ins with the law.

Lane had three and a half years remaining on her $700,000-a-year gig with Channel 3.
Stay tuned for the latest chapter of “As Alycia Turns.” Me? I’ll settle for my boring life any day. But those who were so quick to throw Lane under the boss might want to take a new look at the case, depending on what happens in the courtroom today.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 22

The Daily Numbers: 100 drug counts filed against F. Bruce Covington, the so-called “mystery man” linked to a Thornbury murder case. He’s now the target of a new probe tied to sex and drugs.


40 daring Wawa capers in which police believe the perps hacked their way into the stores by cutting a hole in the roof. At least one of the places hit was in Nether Providence. Two suspects are under arrest.


5 more charges filed by Newtown police against a 199-year-old man they believe ran a kiddie theft ring that specialized in ripping off stuff from unlocked cars. They say the teen ran the ring along with his 39-year-old new bride.


7 of 9 fraud charges against T. Milton Street that a federal jury in Philadelphia says they are deadlocked on. A judge has ordered them to continue deliberating.


5 murders in a span of 9 hours on the streets of Philadelphia on Thursday.


1 person charged in connection with a series of graffiti attacks against churches in Bucks County.


26, age of Army 1st Lt. Nathan Raudenbush, of Earl Township, Berks County. He was killed in Iraq.


3, age of boy in York, Pa., who has died of bacterial meningitis.


3 million bucks paid for a record collection of a guy in Pittsburgh. The haul contains more than 3 million albums, singles and CDs.


16 million more bucks US Airways says it is spending on fuel because of a penny per gallon price hike. They are expecting to post a loss in the first quarter.


3 cent spike in gas prices in the Philadelphia region. The average price now stands at $3.08.


3.68 a gallon for diesel fuel prices. That’s a record high.


20 point lead Hillary Clinton had over Barack Obama in Pennsylvania back in January. That now has shrunk to 12 points, according to a new Franklin and Marshall poll.


46 percent of Pennsylvania for Clinton and 46 percent for McCain in a presidential match.


44 percent for McCain, 43 percent for Obama in the same contest.


35 percent of those polls picked the economy as the top issue.


17 percent selected the war in Iraq. That’s down from 26 percent in January.


28 of February, next Thursday, when some people believe Major League Soccer will announce they are awarding its 16th franchise to Chester. The league is not confirming that.


10 million reasons to smile for Ryan Howard after he won his arbitration battle with the Phillies.


7 straight District 1 titles being sought tonight by the Chester Clippers boys basketball team, weather permitting.


3 championship games set for tonight at Villanova. Should they fall victim to the weather, the PIAA will face some nightmarish scheduling problems.


9 straight losses for the Flyers, who fell last night to the Sharks, 3-1.


111,000 bucks, what an accounting firm says it is owed by former Phillie Lenny Dykstra. Maybe he should ask Ryan Howard for a loan.


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Yes, it is mornings like this that make you yearn for the sounds of balls slapping into warm, soft leather. Can spring be far behind?
*


I Don’t Get It: It looks like the mystery is going to linger for another week. Every indication is that Chester will be awarded the next MLS franchise, but nobody wants to say it on the record.


*


Today’s Upper: That notwithstanding, it does not appear as if anything has changed. Chester is going to be a major league town.


*


Quote Box: “The facts of this new case in Narberth are virtually identical to the facts alleged in the case against William Smithson and identical to the allegations made by William Smithson against F. Bruce Covington.”

-- G. Guy Smith, attorney for Smithson, is seeking to have a gag order in his case dismissed so he can talk to Covington.

The bizarre case of F. Bruce Covington

Back in September 2006, a 23-year-old intern turned up dead in a home in Thornbury. The body of Jason Shephard was found wrapped in a sheet in the basement. He had been drugged and strangled.

The owner of the home, William Smithson, was charged with first-degree murder. Police believe he strangled Shephard, who had arrived here from North Dakota on business just a few days earlier, after the intern rejected his sexual advances.

(Full disclosure here: I know Smithson. He used to work here at the newspaper.)

But Smithson and Shephard were not alone in the home that night. Court documents indicate F. Bruce Covington, a former administrator at Saint Joseph’s University, also was in the house. Smithson’s lawyer sought immunity for Covington so he could testify on his client’s behalf.

The defense alleges Covington is the person who injected drugs into Smithson and also supplied GHB to both the defendant and the victim. GHB is known as the date-rape drug. Covington says he was asleep and did not hear anything.

Covington has not been charged in connection with the Shephard murder.

Last week, police in Narberth started investigating a claim of sexual assault by a 27-year-old man. Their investigation led them to Covington’s apartment.

The 57-year-old Covington now faces a long list of drug charges because of what police found inside, including suspected crystal methamphetamine, marijuana and crack cocaine. They also found suspected GHB.

Covington faces more than 100 drug charges.

He has not been charged with any sex offenses in connection with the man’s claims of assault.

The 27-year-old has been hospitalized “because of the severe trauma of his rape,” according to a police affidavit.

The circumstances are eerily similar to what police believe happened on the night Shephard died. In this latest instance, the victim told police he was drugged and assaulted. He says he is now “terrified of these males” and named a “Bruce” in particular.

Here’s my question and what I’ve been thinking about since we first uncovered this case last weekend. What else happened in those 18 months?

On Thursday Smithson’s lawyer filed a new motion in Delaware County Court seeking to have a gag order in the case lifted so he can talk to Covington about what happened on that deadly night in Thornbury.

It seems we still have much to learn about the bizarre case of F. Bruce Covington.

Another opening in Penn-Delco

The good folks of Brookhaven are not happy. And with good reason.

The revolving door that is the Penn-Delco School Board recently swung open, creating still another vacancy on the troubled board.

So hopes rose that maybe the borough could get some representation on the board. Think again.

The Penn-Delco School District is made up of Brookhaven, Parkside and Aston Township.
But not its school board. All nine members of the board hail from Aston.
If that strikes you as now quite right, you have company with the folks in Brookhaven.

They’re not a little bit happy about it, and are considering taking legal action. They’ve hired an attorney to figure out what they can do about it.
I think this is called “taxation without representation.”

Brookhaven Councilman Dan McCray said he was “furious” when he learned of the appointment of Aston resident Brian Walker. This doesn’t seem to be anything against Walker, who is a lifelong Aston resident and Sun Valley grad, as much as a plea for some representation for the district’s “stepchildren,” Brookhaven and Parkside.

Luckily for residents in those two towns, this is Penn-Delco. So it wasn’t long before the swinging door to the board swung open again. Embattled board President Dave Seitz is headed for the exit, citing increasing personal and business commitments.

That makes 12 members of the board who have bailed in the last 18 months.
We’ll see who fills the latest open seat, and where that person resides. Early betting is making Aston the heavy favorite.

A 'northern and western suburbs' kind of day

My winter is now complete. I just saw a TV news person stick a ruler in the snow.
Yes, it took longer than normal, but winter has arrived this morning. There is measurable snow. Enough to stick a ruler into.

You can almost hear the glee in the voices of the folks on TV and radio.

It’s going to be a “northern and western suburbs” kind of day. Wherever those imaginary places are. They’re calling for 1-3 inches of snow in the immediate suburbs. But 3-6 inches in the “northern and wester suburbs.” One forrecast this morning went so far as to couch it as the “far northern and western suburbs.” What? Like the Catskills?

In short, it’s going to be a mess out there. In other words, winter.
On days like this, I leave the house extra early. I’d rather have the roads to myself than deal with the deadly combination of nasty weather, rush-hour traffic and clueless drivers.

I was safely ensconced in my warm office just before 6 a.m. It took a little longer than normal to drive in. Most of the roads were snow-covered. But they were eminently passable.

They say this is supposed to change over to sleet, rain and freezing later this morning and this afternoon. Then we can repeat the white-knuckle drive to get home and start the weekend.

Unless, of course, you’re a teacher or student. Then your weekend has already started. Most schools are closed today.

Newspapers don’t close. Worse, the snow is actually news, we have to cover it. So the challenge is first to get the staff into the office, then to cover the story.

We are already posting material on school closings and traffic conditions on our Web site. It’s one of the best things about the Internet. We now have the capability of posting news immediately and updating it constantly, as opposed to the single print edition we publish each day.

I’m tempted to have one of our photographers shoot video of me sticking a ruler in the snow here in beautiful downtown Primos. Somehow, I think I’ll pass.

I am not smiling as I type this. I get no joy out of winter. That thrill exited years ago. In short, I hate winter. And I don’t suffer easily those who take some kind of silly glee out of sticking a ruler in the snow.

Next thing I know you’re going to be telling me it’s sunny and 70 in Clearwater.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chester: Major League town

Chester is going to be a Major League town. Again.

I repeat. Chester is going to be a Major League town.

Roll that one around on your tongue for awhile. Chester. Major League.

It’s been awhile since the downtrodden city hard on the Delaware River has been able to make that claim.

That is about to end.

Maybe as soon as 2010, sports sections all across the nation, and indeed the globe, will carry a new dateline.

Chester, Pa.

That’s because the 16th franchise of Major League Soccer is going to play its games in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

That’s right. Beckham and Posh are coming to Chester.

What has been widely assumed is likely to be cemented next week. Major League Soccer officials will travel to the city of Chester to announce they have awarded their latest expansion franchise to a group of investors that is planning to build a stadium just south of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

The months-in-the-making project became pretty much a lock two weeks ago when the state approved a move to kick in $47 million toward the $115 million stadium project. Delaware County already was on board. They’re putting up $30 million, in exchange for owning the land and the stadium, which they will run through a sports authority.

On Thursday, the final piece of the puzzle was put in place when the Delaware River Port Authority board approved $10 million in funding, which is actually part of the $47 million state package announced by Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Dominic Pileggi at a press conference at the nearby Wharf at Rivertown, next door to the proposed stadium site.

It is hard to explain the impact of this proposal. The city is not just getting an 18,500-seat stadium. And a Major League Soccer franchise.

The stadium is part of a $500 million development along the Chester waterfront that will include an expo center, retail outlets, shops, restaurants and residences.

Word is that all the parties involved likely will once again make their way to the city for the official announcement next week. It has long been believed that an announcent was a matter of when, not if. This morning a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer says it looks like Thursday, Feb. 28.

I suppose it would be selfish of me at this point to delay the announcement one day.
They could do it on Feb. 29, Leap Day. That would seem appropriate.

It will be a giant leap forward for Chester and Delaware County.

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 21

The Daily Numbers: 115 million dollars, the value of the stadium to built in Chester. Also the number of smiles on the faces of officials when they announce next week that Major League Soccer has awarded the city its 16th franchise.


28 as in Feb. 28. Next Thursday. That’s when it appears Major League Soccer will make its formal announcement.


10 million dollars kicked into the stadium project yesterday by the Delaware River Port Authority.


1 less satellite floating around in space after the U.S. Navy nailed a disabled spy satellite with a single missile.


19 die-hard fans who spent much of the night standing outside Citizens Bank Park for the chance to get first crack at single-game Phillies tickets that went on sale this morning.


68 children who will be able to take advantage of the expanded newe home of the Widener University Child Development Center. Previously enrollment topped out at 38.


105,000 dollar fine for the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City for allowing an underage gambler to spend about a month at the gaming tables.


5 homicides recorded in the city of Philadelphia in the last 24 hours. The new police chief has his work cut out for him.


2 DUI charges in a span of 4 hours for a man in Lackawanna County.


2 suspects busted in a series of rooftop burglaries. Many of the heists targeted Wawas in Delaware County where the suspects used a saw to cut a hole in the roof and gain access to the store.


9 as in March 9. That will be the date of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia. Officials have moved the fete up by a week so as not to coincide with Palm Sunday and the start of Easter Week activities.


930 jobs being slashed by GMAC in its auto finance division.


2 national retailers that have filed for bankruptcy. Sharper Image Corp. and Lillian Vernon have gone belly-up.


5,770 retail stores that one expert predicts will close their doors in 2008, the largest number since 2004.


6 out of 10, where US Airways ranks in the number of full-time employees among the nation’s largest airlines.


10 youths who are believed to have ganged up on a 13-year-old at a North Philadelphia stop on the Broad Street subway line. It’s the latest in a string of such attacks.


44 percent of Pennsylvanians still backing Hillary Clinton, to 32 percent for Barack Obama, according to the latest Daily News/Franklin & Marshall poll.


10 straight wins for Barack Obama, who has Clinton on the ropes. He also took Hawaii on Tuesday.


40 point win for the Sixers, who simply blew away the New York Knicks last night, 124-84.


1 year extension given to Sixers coach Mo Cheeks yesterday. If they respond this way, they ought to give him an extension every day.


2 point loss for the boys from Bonner as they fell to Archbishop Ryan last night, 44-42.


44 points for the Ridley boys last night. Not enough. They fell to Downingtown West, 51-44, in PIAA AAA action.


56 points for Delco Christian, which also fell in the District 1 Class A semifinals, 75-56, to Faith Christian.


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
When is the last time anyone made you this offer: You’re either going to make $7 million or $10 million this year. How can Ryan Howard lose?
*


I Don’t Get It: The Chester Upland School District continues to struggle financially. And the district continues to be mired in political struggles. Anyone see a connection here?


*


Today’s Upper: But there is good news from Chester this morning. Actually outstanding news. Yep, they will be home to the latest Major League Soccer franchise.


*


Quote Box: “It’s a human system. People make mistakes. The goal is to minimize the chance for those mistakes.”

-- Dan Chapman, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, on the new flight patterns in place at Philadelphia International Airport.

Snow job

While the military scored a direct hit, make it another swing and a miss for Ol’ Man Winter.

We got a dusting of snow yesterday. Certainly not worth all the bluster the forecasters put into it.

Fear not. They’re going to get another shot at it, and this one sounds a bit more serious.

The forecast for the overnight into Friday and much of the day tomorrow sounds like a mess.

Here’s what they’re saying. It’s going to start snowing around 2 a.m. We actually are supposed to see some accumulating snow from this storm. At this point I’ll believe it when I see it.

The morning rush could be more like a morning mush.

Then the second half of this weather double-header is due to arrive in the afternoon.
Snow will taper off by late morning, but then a mix of snow, rain and ice are supposed to hit in mid-afternoon and continue into Friday night. So if you struggle to make it into the office Friday morning, you’ll be happy to know the ride home might not be a whole lot better.

And this final word. It is supposed to be in the 70s Friday as the Phillies practice in Clearwater.

That’s a little different than the 19 degrees that many hearty fans stood out in early this morning outside Citizens Bank Park for the right to buy single-season tickets.

Yep, spring can’t be far off.

Mission accomplished

Cue the “Star Wars” music. This one is right out of the movies.

They didn’t need Bruce Willis, but the U.S. Navy says they have blasted a disabled spy satellite out of the sky. Click here to read all about it.

I realize the government’s concern about the supposed toxic fuel that was on board this rocket and the danger it posed should it crash to earth.

But to be honest, I only think of one thing when I look at this story.

Missile Defense. Yep, that program that everyone mocked when it was first raised by Ronald Reagan.

I have no idea if this incident even translates to the so-called “Star Wars” defense program.

But it’s nice to know we have that capability if we need it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 20

The Daily Numbers: 0.5 percent of Chester’s earned income tax of 2.35 percent that the Chester Upland School District Empowerment Board wants to get its hands on. So far the elected school board, city and county officials are opposing the move.


200 dollars worth of stuff shoplifted from a Springfield supermarket. Police say a woman used her 11-year-old daughter to retrieve plastic bags to stash the loot.


2, as in a mother and daughter, 36 and 19 respectively, who have been arrested after allegedly going on a shoplifting spree at a Kohl’s store in Wilmington.


3,600 dollars a year, what Ridley Park says it can save by going to bi-weekly paychecks. The borough’s cops don’t like the proposal.


33 students in Penn-Delco who are having their residency questioned by the school board.


12 members of the Penn-Delco School Board to resign in the last 18 months. Board President Dave Seitz is the latest to step down.


2 Philadelphia police officers sent to hospital after their cruiser collided with another car in North Philly.


3 houses of worship that have now been the targets of vandals in Bucks County. The churches are just a few miles apart. Police are investigating the possibility that the graffiti and threats are the work of a demonic cult.


3 teens in the last couple of weeks who have now been attacked by a gang of thugs on the Broad Street subway line.


13, age of student charged with stabbing four of his classmates at Antietam Middle-Senior High in Reading, Pa. He says he was being bullied by fellow eighth-graders.


4,000 dollars worth of goods that a school board member in Bloomsburg, Pa., served time for stealing more than two decades ago. He’s upset that his foes are now bringing it up again.


100 dollars a barrel, the threshold oil prices soared over yesterday, in part due to a fire at a refinery in Texas.


2 cent spurt in the price of gas overnight. The region’s average price for unleaded regular is now $3.04. Statewide the price went up 2 cents as well, to $3.07. Need to fill up? Drive over to Jersey. Average price there is $2.82.


5,000 more cases of cancer reported in 2005. That reverses a two-year trend in which the number of cases declined.


9 straight wins for Barack Obama, who put Wisconsin in the win column last night.


8 straight losses now for the Flyers, who fell in Ottawa last night in a shootout.


22 point win for Chester High last night as they overwhelmed Penn Wood, 74-52, to advance to the PIAA District 1 final.


2 wins by the O’Hara and Carroll girls, setting up another showdown for the Catholic League Southern Division crown.


3 million bucks, what separates Ryan Howard and the Phillies as they head for arbitration today.


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
So who do you think will win again first, Hillary Clinton or the Flyers?
*


I Don’t Get It: State police and the Gaming Control Board are pointing the fingers at each other over just how a guy who just got indicted managed to be awarded a license for one of the state’s prized slots parlors.


*


Today’s Upper: Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, lost another round in court, being denied a hearing for his claims that some witnesses at his trial perjured himself.


*


Quote Box: “We are not against being fiscally responsible … but it will cost money the way you are doing it.”

-- Ridley Park Police Capt. Mark Bascelli, on council’s plan to issue paychecks every two weeks.

The toughest jobs in Delco

I had a meeting yesterday with two men who just might have the toughest jobs in Delaware County.

Meet Gregory Thornton and Marc Wooley.

Dr. Thornton is the superintendent of the Chester Upland School District. Wooley is the head of the state Empowerment Board that actually runs the perenially troubled district.

To give you an idea of what they’re up against, Thornton arrived here to succeed Dr. Gloria Grantham. He didn’t have to come far. Thornton was previously the chief academic officer of the equally troubled Philadelphia School District.

Chester Upland has about 4,000 students in seven schools. Those numbers are dwarfed by the situation in the Philadelphia School District, which has hundreds of schools and a staggering amount of students. Many of those schools and students face problems every bit as serious or even more so than the situation in Chester.

Thornton arrived in Chester, took one look around, and shook his head. He says it’s easily the biggest challenge he’s faced in his career.

How bad were things? Thornton says that at one point last year a decision actually was made not to teach math in the district schools, instead to focus on literacy. You can’t make this kind of stuff up.

There are a lot of good things going on in the city of Chester. The city is experiencing something of a turnaround. But it will all be for naught if those gains are not shared by the school district.

That is where Thornton and Wooley come in.

Wooley came into power when the state Department of Education, in a fairly controversial move, decided that the former Board of Control, which was tasked with putting the ailing district on the path to fiscal sanity, has accomplished its mission.

They promptly blew up that board and set up the Empowerment Board, installing Wooley as its leader.

There are those who say that nothing happens in the Chester Upland School District that is not rooted in politics. For decades the school system was the favored patronage mill of the Republican Party.

That’s true. The Board of Control was tied to the former Republican state administration. The Empowerment Board is tied to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.
Wooley and Thornton have set out to change the way things are done in Chester Upland. Again. Specifially, they want to change the perception of the district, and to get results.

They face some daunting odds.

First, and maybe foremost, there is the continuing exodus of students to charter schools. Right now $31 million of their annual budget goes to the local charters. That’s a big chunk of change.

Now they’re about to butt heads with both city and county leaders over an earned income tax.

They want to get their hands on what they believe is the school district’s fair share of the levy exacted by the city.

But the elected school board, yes there still is one, voted 9-1 to reject their request. The Empowerment Board says it plans to go ahead and ask voters whether they will back transferring a portion, actually 0.5 percent, of the city’s 2.35 percent earned income tax to the school district.

Whether or not they have the power to do that could wind up in court.
Where everything with this district seems to end up.

Thornton and Wooley are bound and determined to make changes in the district. They point to the recent new contract for the district’s teachers as proof they aim to change the way things are done in Chester Upland.

They have opposed, or at least questioned, a proposal for a movie studio in Chester Township because the developer wants the district to forego tax revenues, which would be used to build the facility.

Wooley makes it clear. He inspects these things carefully, and wants to know about every contract, and every dollar, and who is getting what, and making sure the school district gets its fair share.

They talk plainly about how far behind the district is, and their desire to invest in kids.

Too often, too much is made of the dollars and cents, and the kids are forgotten.
Thornton and Wooley want to do both. They want to be fiscally prudent while moving the district and its families ahead. Or at least bring them up to the levels of other districts in the county.

Makes sense to me. Cents, too.

Ryan's (and the fans') Hope

The Phillies should hope they lose this afternoon.

No, they aren’t actually playing a game. Exhibition season doesn’t start for another week or so.

This is much more important than that. This is about money.
Specifically, show me the money.

That’s what Ryan Howard wants the Phillies to do.

The team and their star slugger will sit down today across the table from each other at an arbitration hearing and try to convince the guy in charge why their salary figure is correct.

Click here for our beat writer Ryan Lawrence’s take on it.

The Phillies are offering Howard $7 million. He wants $10 million. So far this spring teams have won every arbitration hearing. The players are taking an 0-fer.
The Phillies should hope that streak stops this afternoon.

Howard is the face of the franchise. He puts people in the seats. Let me ask you this. Do you ever get up to hit the fridge, or the bathroom, when Howard is up? Of course not. You never know when he’s going to hit one of those moon shots into Ashburn Alley.

Why the Phillies would want to sit down across from him at a table and argue why he isn’t worth the money’s he’s asking for is beyond me.

Hey, it’s not my money. It is my team, however. I have big hopes for this year. And I want a happy Howard leading that charge.

So, just for this once, let’s hope the Phillies lose today.

The Storm Watch

We’re on the storm watch. Which means it’s time to storm the supermarkets.

After all, you wouldn’t want to get caught without eggs or milk when we’re expecting a dusting of snow. You never know when you’re going to get out of the house again.

While you’re at the store, maybe you should pick up some earmuffs. That way you can drown out the never-ending storm warnings we will be buried in.

If you really want a taste of what to expect, Click here for the kind of thing to expect this afternoon.

Oh, and by the way, we’re expecting another storm on Friday. This one they’re saying might actually bring accumulating snow. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Feb. 19

The Daily Numbers: 50 supporters of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama who gathered for a rally in Chester last night.


94 delegates at stake as Democratic voters in Wisconsin go to the polls today.


138 delegate lead in the Democratic race right now for Sen. Barack Obama.


400 superdelegates that are also up for grabs. They are not bound by their states’ popular votes. Among them is U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, who has said he is backing Hillary Clinton.


500,000 dollar bail for a man facing drug charges in Narberth, Montco. F. Bruce Covington also is alleged to have been in the house of a Thornbury man where a visiting intern from North Dakota was found murdered.


50 years in power that come to an end with word that Cuban strongman Fidel Castro has resigned as president.


81, Castro’s age. He’ll be replaced by his brother Raul, who is 76.


400,000 properties in Philadelphia that have been reassessed, most going up. They are the basis for a lawsuit filed against the Board of Revision of Taxes.


24,000 dollar grant that will be used by authorities in Montgomery County to teach parents and kids about the growing dangers that lurk on the Internet.


2 puppies stolen from a house in Townsend, Del. The 8-week-old Golden Retriever puppies are valued at $750 a piece.


1 cent more per gallon, what we’re paying for gasoline as prices start to trend upward again. Average price of gallon of unleaded regular now stands at $3.01. Statewide prices rose 4 cents over the weekend, to an average high of $3.05.


500 people that could be employed at regional helicopter maker AgustaWestland by the end of the year as production is ramped up.


3 years to the day that Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone left a nightclub on South Street in Philadelphia. They have not been seen since.


3,000 bucks, what some people are losing in a scam going across the state in which people are duped into being “mystery shoppers.”


9 where Pennsylvania ranks in terms of the most-stressed cities. That’s out of the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S.


40 percent of Americans who say they are frequently subjected to stress.


20 million bucks a year, what Sen. Arlen Specter says it costs us to keep illegal aliens locked up in our jails.


415,000 dollars believed ripped off from a Catholic school in South Jersey by its former principal. He says he was driven to it by abuse he suffered at the hands of Catholic priests.


0 chance of Peter Forsberg playing for the Flyers this year. The Swedish superstar indicated yesterday his foot has not recovered enough for him to return to the NHL.


9 goals for the Penncrest ice hockey team as they overwhelmed Lower Merion, 9-0.


1 point difference as La Salle edged Saint Joe’s last night in a classic Big 5 thriller at the Palestra.


26 points for Chester High grad Darrin Govens in the loss for the Hawks.


*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Get your microphones ready. Jimmy Rollins arrives in Phillies camp today and no doubt will be asked for his reaction to the boast by New York Mets’ slugger Carlos Beltran that, reversing Rollins’ claim last year, the Mets are the team to beat this year.
*


I Don’t Get It: A church in Bucks County canceled all social activities after it was hit by graffiti and a mailed threat. I don’t get it.


*


Today’s Upper: Brace yourself. We could very well be the focus of the political world in the weeks leading up to the Pennsylvania Primary. Don’t you just love it?


*


Quote Box: “I was surprised there was no input from the entire committee before it went out.”

-- Mary Ellen Balchunis, vice chair of the Delco Democratic Party, on the move by several party leaders to support Sen. Barack Obama.

A historic 'race' in Pa.

Voters in Pennsylvania will not cast ballots in the presidential primary for another two months.

Some Delaware County Democrats just couldn’t wait that long.

A faction led by county Democratic boss Cliff Wilson jumped on the “Obama Express” yesterday, throwing their support behind the Illinois senator and his message of change.

It’s not unanimous. Some in the party leadership, including U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, and party Vice-Chair Mary Ellen Balchunis-Harris, are backing Hillary Clinton.
The Obama backers threw a little shindig in Chester last night to celebrate. They gathered at the Willie Mae Leake Community Center.

And they had a message for the pollsters who have Clinton holding a substantial lead: Don’t bet the house on it.

They also had a message for those who see only one thing when they look at Obama, the color of his skin.

Whatever Democrats do in this race, they are going to make history, nominating either the first woman or first African-American to lead their ticket.

It is something people have a tough time getting past. That would include our governor, Ed Rendell.

Rendell is backing Clinton. But he raised more than a few eyebrows last week when he intimated that some white Pennsylvanians simply will not vote for Obama because he is black.

Likewise he said there are those who will not vote for Hillary because she is a woman.

He was, of course, correct. On both counts. That didn’t mean it needed to be said, or to be placed in the spotlight.

That’s the problem. There are some people who aren’t going to see anything else when they look at Obama. Or Clinton, for that matter.

But that’s one of the things I liked most about last night’s rally in Chester. It covered all the bases: black, white, young, old, male and female.

It was left to one of the hosts of the evening, state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester, to put into words what was on most people’s minds.

“A lot of people try to make this about race,” Kirkland told the crowd. “Let me tell you this is not about race. This is about a race to the White House.”

I hope he’s right. My fear is that he’s not.

My hope is that people would not base their vote on a candidate’s gender, or their race. My fear is that we’re not.

That’s why I’m looking forward to the next two months and the buildup to the Pennsylvania Primary.

I’m looking forward to a thorough airing of the issues. I’m looking forward to a serious discussion of whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is the best candidate to face a third senator, the presumed GOP standard-bearer John McCain, for the White House.

I am hoping Pennsylvania can move beyond the joke that sticks to it: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.

I am looking forward to a historic race in Pennsylvania. And it has nothing to do with the fact that one candidate’s a woman. It also has nothing to do with the color of anyone's skin.

We have two months to prove everyone who believes otherwise wrong.