Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Thursday, July 31

The Daily Numbers: 50 billion dollars, how are in the red the state’s 2 large public employee pension plans are mired.

36, age of woman from Drexel Hill who now faces charges in the heroin OD death of her 58-year-old boyfriend.

12 men who would be housed at the former St. Joe’s Convent in Collingdale as zoners consider a group home for the men with Down syndrome and autism.

4 suspects in the Main Line ‘Take Over Project’ pot ring that entered guilty pleas yesterday. They likely will testify against the 2 suspected ringleaders.

58, age of postal worker who faces DUI charges after flipping over her mail jeep in Middletown.

45, age of Upper Darby father who surrendered yesterday to face charges that he cold-cocked a man who was ogling his daughter in a Wawa. He faces assault charges.

2 counts of extortion and 14 additional crimes alleged against members of the Ironworkers. Several of the incidents occurred at Delco school construction projects.

5 universities, including Cheyney, in the state system that indicate they are considering laying off workers.

13.8 acres on Lancaster Avenue that is destined to become a new dorm, parking garage and performing arts center at Villanova University.

4-0 vote by Concord supervisors to place an ordinance on the November ballot asking residents if they favor a change in the style of township government.

6 Philly narcotics cops indicted by the feds for allegedly shaking down and stealing money and drugs from drug dealers. 1,300 now dead in Gaza as the unrest between Israel and Hamas continues.

31 point dip for the Dow yesterday.

11-2 beatdown for the Phillies vs. the Mets yesterday afternoon.

4 runs on 7 hits over 6 innings for starter Kyle Kendrick.

5-11 record now for Kendrick, with an ERA of .4.92

15th homer of the season for Jimmy Rollins.

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

Who do you think the Phils will deal by the 4 p.m. trade deadline? Anybody. I say they move 1 guy - Marlon Byrd.

I Don’t Get It: The Sixers apparently are complaining about the NBA’s proposal to change the formula for who gets the No. 1 pick. It used to be the team with worst record had a 25 percent chance. That could change to make the lowest four teams all have an 11 percent chance. Apparently the Sixers believe this will interfere with the plans to tank another season. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to Mercy Fitzgerald officials, who used a full-page ad in today’s print edition to offer their thoughts and thanks to the community following last week’s tragic shooting incident. They also honored caseworker Theresa Hunt, who was killed. Her funeral was last night. A very nice gesture.

Quote Box: “We experienced the most tragic event in the 80-year history of our ministry.”

- Statement by Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital.

Pennsylvania's $50 billion problem

I can't find anyone who disagrees with Gov. Tom Corbett's assessment of the state's unfunded pension liability as the No. 1 issue in the state.

Last night I had two of the most powerful men in Harrisburg - both from Delco - and both of them quickly concurred. Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, the Senate majority leader, and Rep. Bill Adolph, $-165, of Springfield, majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, joined me for our live-stream Internet show,'Live From the Newsroom,' to talk about the pension crisis and budget issues.

If you missed the show you can catch the replay here.

The good news? Everybody seems focused on a resolution, likely starting with moving future workers into a plan that looks a lot more like the private sector 401K plans most workers deal with today. That's the end result of an amendment to a bill being offered by Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill, which would create a threshold of $50,000 for workers to remain in the defined benefit plan. After that they would be moved into the defined contribution plan.

Actually, Sen. Pileggi has championed an even bolder move, simply making all new employees after a set date take part in the defined contribution plans.

The bad news? None of this does a thing to shrink the $50 billion - and growing - unfunded liability.

Larry Feinberg, a longtime member of the Haverford School Board and founder and co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition, talked about the real problems this is creating at the local level, agreeing that the bottom line, as Corbett has been alluding to in visits across the state the past two weeks, is increases in property taxes.

The problem is revenue. The bottom line is that there is not a lot of wiggle room in the series of austere, no-tax-hike budgets Corbett and the Legislature have put in place.

All agree that it is essential for the state to pay its bills. It owes the money. Mistake were made in the past, and the state got walloped when the market tanked back in 2008, and now the bill is due. It's a big, fat $50 billion fiscal train wreck, one that is nearly doubling every year.

Consider the fact that the budget the Legislature passed just before the July 1 deadline totalled $29 billion.

The state did not get into this predicament overnight, and the solution will not be a quick one either.

Adolph belives an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale drilling is likely, but even that won't eradicate the shortfall. Pileggi is less enthused about the extraction tax, noting the governor's staunch opposition, which shows no sign of easing.

Feinberg offered one complete new source of revenue - a potential tax on financial transactions.

I asked all three if they believe this "crisis" is resonating with the public. It's easy for your eyes to glaze over when you start talking about multipliers and other financial wizardry.

Clearly, Corbett thinks it has.

He's drawn a line in the sand and is likely betting his governorship in pushing a direct link between the ballooning pension bill and increasing local property taxes.

In other words, something every citizen can understand - their wallet.

Stay tune.

We're going to be hearing a lot more about the pension crisis between now and November.

A sliver of good news for Gov. Corbett

Remember where you heard it.

I am one of the few voices heard in Pennsylvania who believes Tom Corbett will be re-elected to a second term as governor.

I know what the poll numbers say. I know that he sits double digits behind Democrat Tom Wolf. I know all about the hue and cry over his austere budgets.

And yes, I am aware that earlier this week the Washington Post again crowned Corbett as the nation's governor who is most likely to be shown the door by voters in November. It wasn't the first time. In fact, they have done so for 13 months in a row.

But here's a poll you may not have seen. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed Wolf's big lead is shrinking. What was once a 20-plus point margin is down to single digits at 9 percent.

The poll still has Corbett losing, with the incumbent getting 33 percent backing, as compared to the Dem challenger's 42 percent margin.

Again, I think you can point to TV.

The governor has gone into attack mode as he tries to save his beleaguered candidacy, taking off the gloves and hammering away at Wolf on everything from his record as Ed Rendell's revenue secretary to a claim that his business is ducking taxes by chartering in Delaware.

Corbett has been criss-crossing the state declaring war on what he considers the No. 1 issue in the state, the ballooning public employee pension crisis, and lampooning Wolf for claiming there is no crisis.

Corbett has $50 billion in red ink that says otherwise.

Just keep in mind that Pennsylvania almost never boots an incumbent governor. Instead, what we do is flip-flop parties every eight years.

Don't write off the governor just yet.

Besides, I just know he's going to get that push to privatize liquor sales in the state passed any day now.

Hours tick off to trade deadline for Phils

The Phillies, fresh off an 11-2 thumping at the hands of the New York Mets, limped into Washington, D.C., last night to kick off a four-game set against the Nationals tonight.

Cliff Lee is still scheduled to be the Phils' starter.

I say "still" because we are approaching baseball's witching hour. The annual trade deadline arrives at 4 p.m. Very often a player who is at the center of trade talks will be scratched from the lineup. Not so with Lee. At least not yet. But it's early.

Several reports say the Phils are still engaged with teams interested in starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, reliever Antonio Bastardo and outfielder Marlon Byrd.

Columnist Jack McCaffery, who witnessed the carnage in the Big Apple yesterday afternoon, said G.M. Ruben Amaro Jr. did not indicate he was close to any deals. Here's Jack's thoughts on the unease that has settled on the team before the trade deadline.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Wednesday, July 30

The Daily Numbers: 2 to 4 years in prison for Upper Chi parents who let their malnourished kids live in deplorable conditions.

5 and 7, ages of two children found barefoot and filthy in backyard of home.

6 Philly police officers rounded up this morning to face federal corruption charges.

30 youths from the Darby Fresh Start Program who decided to throw a prom for Mayor Helen Thomas. Well done, kids.

1 of 2 guns found in the apartment of Mercy Fitzgerald shooting suspect Richard Plotts was nearly a century old.

1 acre of ground near MacDade Boulevard and Kedron Avenue that will be sold by the township to aid in redevelopment.

2 lane, 2-way road now back on track for the long contested Third Street Bridge span in Media, after the borough decided not to appeal a judge’s ruling.

650,000 dollars for the project from the state, with another $75,000 from the county.

1991, when Dottie Kornafel started working for Aston Township. She’s retiring.

70 point dip for the stock market yesterday.

35 percent of Americans described as in deep debt.

23 conclusions in an NTSB report on that train derailment last year in Paulsboro, N.J. The report blamed the train’s engineer and also faulted the response by emergency responders.

0 bail for the 2 suspects charged in fatal carjacking that left 3 children dead in the Tioga section of Philadelphia.

8 shutout innings tossed by Cole Hamels last night in 6-2 Phils win over Mets.

3 straight wins for Hamels, to raise his record to 6-5.

6 hits, 0 runs and 8 strikeouts for the red-hot Hamels.

14 of his last 16 starts that Hamels has gone at least 7 innings. 1.90 ERA over that time period.

2.55 ERA overall for Hamels.

3 home runs hit by the Phils

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

I’ll say it again. Cole Hamels is the 1 guy on the roster Ruben Amaro Jr. should NOT deal at the trade deadline.

I Don’t Get It: The Pennsylvania State Police are being sued by the Justice Department over over their fitness test. They allege it's unfair to women. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the kids from the Fresh Start Program of Upper Darby, who threw a surprise prom for borough Mayor Helen Thomas. Nice gesture.

Quote Box: “I was a horrible parent.’

- Vincent McDonald, in being sentenced for leaving his 2 kids malnourished and living in filthy conditions.

Giving this weather the cold shoulder

Pardon me if I don't join the chorus tossing out hosannas about this weather.

What the hell happened to summer?

Last night when I got home, I had to break out the snuggie (yes, guys, I can admit I use one, a special University of Colorado limited edition featuring the world's greatest mascot, Ralphie the Buffalo).

My wife had all the windows in the sun room open, leading directly into the kitchen, and the spot where I sit at the table to eat dinner.

My teeth were chattering.

Look, it's the last week of July. We're supposed to be steaming, not shivering.

This morning we tied a record for the low at 58, which was set back in 1981. It is supposed to recover to the low 80s tonight before nosediving again tonight.

Is it too much to ask for a little heat and humidity in July and August.

So much for Global Warming.

'Live From the Newsroom' tackles the state pension issue

Last week we heard from Gov. Tom Corbett, who has been criss-crossing the state doing his best Paul Revere impersonation: 'The pension crisis is coming, the pension crisis is coming.'

Actually, it's already here. And it's about to detonate in school districts across the state, straining budgets from one end of the Commnwealth to the other. To his credit, the governor has been saying so for most of his troubled first term, labeling it a 'tapeworm' in the state budget crisis and Pennsylvania's No. 1 problem.

Facing a tough, uphill fight for re-election against Democrat Tom Wolf, Corbett is now making his pitch directly to the public, and trying to put it in terms they understand - their wallets. Corbett is making a direct link between rising costs for the state's two major public employee pension systems and school property taxes. In other words, the wallet of Joe Citizen.

The governor was so incensed that the Legislature ignored his call to take action on the pension crisis that he took out his pen and stripped a ton of money the pols routinely use from the state budget.

The governor wants the House and Senate to return to Harrisburg to deal with the looming crisis.

Tonight we'll hear from two key members of those two ruling bodies as our live-stream Internet broadcast, 'Live From the Newsroom,' talks tackles the pension crisis, along with the state budget and education funding.

Joining us will be two of the most powerful men in Harrisburg, state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, the Senate majority leader, and Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, the majority chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Yep, they're the ones who put the state budget together.

Also joining us will be longtime Haverford School Board member Larry Feinberg, who also just happens to be the founder and co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition. No one has a better grasp on what school districts are dealing with in this era of dwindling funding and increased pension responsibilities.

Do you have a pension question you'd like answered? Email it to me at and I'll ask our panel.

Then tune in tonight at 7 on for a frank discussion on the No. 1 issue in the state.

Don't stand on the sidelines. Get involved. Take part. I look forward to hearing from you.

Another gem from Hamels

Ruben Amaro Jr.'s job doesn't get any easier.

The one bargaining chip he has as the clock ticks down toward that 4 p.m. Thursday trade deadline is Cole Hamels.

And Hamels certainly has been doing everything in his power to increase his value. He was lights out again last night, throwing eight shutout innings as the Phils rolled over the Mets, 6-0. It's the third straight outing in which Hamels has been all but unhittable.

Last night he struck out 8 while scattering 6 hits, in the process lowering his ERA to a sparkling 2.55 Amaro will want a king's ransom for Hamels, a treasure trove of a franchise's top young prospects, and even then I'm not sure you deal Hamels.

Here's one man's vote: Don't deal Hamels.

Everyone else on this roster is fair game. Then build around the ace left-hander.

We'll know in about 24 hours.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Tuesday, July 29

The Daily Numbers: 2 suspects charged in the deadly carjacking that killed 3 children in the Tioga section of Philly.

21, age of Chester man who saw all charges against him in a fatal shooting in Darby Borough dropped by the D.A.’s office.

26, age of woman who remains in critical condition after her ex-boyfriend went on shooting spree, killing their 5-year-old son before turning the gun on himself after a police chase.

20, age of Upper Darby man to a year less 1 day in an assault and robbery.

16.5 million dollar renovation of Nether Providence Elementary School that is ongoing.

35, age of Folcroft man who faces charges of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old teen girl in his home.

15 of August, that is when a private firm will officially take over bus service in Springfield School District.

46 district drivers at time the contract was outsourced.

10-12 already had left the district at the time. Another 15 chose not to go to the new firm, went to other districts or retired.

800,000 dollars, how much Springfield hopes to save on busing services in the next few years, including selling off their fleet of buses.

70,000 dollars being spent by Garnet Valley School District for 2-way radios for the district bus fleet.

7 to 14 years behind bars for a massage therapist from Chadds Ford charged with molesting 4 patients.

2 wounded in separate shootings in Chester over the weekend.

205,000 dollar grant being used by Concord to install traffic adaptive equipment for the 5 intersections along Baltimore Pike from Route 322 to Route 202.

8.5 billion dollars being laid out by Dollar Tree stores to buy its competitor Family Dollar.

12 million dollar fine being sought by FAA against Southwest Airlines.

22 point hike for the stock market yesterday.

7-1 ugly loss for the Phillies last night as they kicked off a road trip in NYC vs. the Mets.

7 runs on 8 hits over 5 innings surrendered by starter A.J. Burnett.

2 fights in 2 days for the Eagles as training camp gets underway.

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

There are not a lot of Phillies that are sparking much in the way of interest as the trade deadline looms on Thursday. And that’s for good reason. Aside from Cole Hamels, who on this roster would you want?

I Don’t Get It: Still trying to come to grips with the carjacking that snuffed out the lives of 3 children in Tioga. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to Charles Barkley. The former Sixers star is offering to pay for the funeral for the 3 kids.

Quote Box: “We have a disease that’s killing our people.”

- Golie Avajon, who coordinated fundraiser over weekend in Darby Borough to battle ebola problem in her native Sierra Leone area of Africa.

More on the smoking guns of Mercy Fitzgerald

I do not own a gun.

I am, however, glad that Dr. Lee Silverman does.

The good doctor, as we all now know, very likely saved lives when he pulled his own weapon and stopped Richard Plotts from doing even more damage after the troubled man pulled out a gun during an appointment with Dr. Silverman last Thursday at the Wellness Center at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital.

Dr. Silverman's reaction, unfortunately, came too late for caseworker Theresa Hunt, who was shot at point-blank range by Plotts.

Both Yeadon Chief Don Molineaux and Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said they believe Silverman's action saved lives.

I will not disagree with them.

I don't know if I am ready to join those forces who insist that the only way to take down a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

But I am glad Dr. Silverman did what he did, even if it was in apparent violation of hospital policy. Plotts was a convicted felon who was not legally entitled to possess a gun. How's that working out for us. It is not the first time he's broken this particular law. His long criminal record includes charges of a convicted felon in possession of a gun.

That's the problem with using laws to deal with the gun problem in this country.

If someone wants to get a gun, they will do so. Passing a law is not going to change that.

So where does that leave us?

I'm not sure.

Except for this.

Thank you, Dr. Silverman.

Charles Barkley, class act

I am hard-presssed to think of anything good that could possibly come from the heart-wrenching saga of three children run down by carjackers in the Tioga section of Philadelphia.

Two men now face charges in connection with this heinous act, in which they carjacked an SUV from a realtor, then careened down a road at a high rate of speed before blowing a tire and slamming into a family that was selling fruit for their church at an intersection.

Three young kids were killed. Their mother remains in the hospital.

It was while announcing that third-degree murder charges as well as a slew of other offenses were being filed against the two that District Attorney Seth Williams offered something of a silver lining to his tragedy.

The family has been struggling with money issues to bury the children.

That's when a very familiar name stepped up.

We spend a lot of time mocking athletes in this town. We are tough on them when then fail. We're even rougher when it appears they are not giving their best effort. And we can be merciless when they don't care.

Charles Barkley always cared. Yes, he took some heat for some things he did, including a bar altercation in which he tossed a heckler through a window, and an unfortunate in-game incident in which he spit on a little girl instead of the opposing player he was targeting. All of that was part of Barkley's passion, and we loved him for it. That passion has not eroded since he hung up his sneakers.

The former Sixers great and NBA Hall-of-Famer has indicated he wants to pay for the funeral for the three kids killed in the carjacking tragedy.

Barkley now works as an analyst after finishing his great career in Phoenix. But he has always held the place where he first shot to stardom close to his heart.

Charles Barkley will always be Philly.

He also will always be something else: A class act.

Phillies raise the white flag

In my racket, a 'lead' is used to lure a reader into a story, a hook that hints at what lies ahead in the tale.

In terms of sports, the way we cover and write game stories has changed. The truth is most readers already know who won and lost the game when they pick up the paper.

That's where we bank on the people who cover our sports beats to offer their analysis and opinion of what happened in the game. They're not exactly columnists, but it's not the traditional 'inverted pyramid' style of reporting that focused on the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) either.

Having said that, you'll wait a long time before you read a better lead than our Phillies beat writer Dennis Deitch penned on that ugly, disheartening performance by the pinstripes in the Big Apple vs. the Mets last night.

The Phillies fell 7-1 - and it probably wasn't that close.

This one was over early, a fact not lost on Deitch when he tapped out this gem of a lead:

"The Mets were camouflage jerseys Monday night. Before the fisrt inning was over, the Phillies were raising a white flag."


You can read the rest of Dennis' game story here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Monday, July 28

The Daily Numbers: 5, age of child killed when gunfire erupted outside an apartment in Ridley Township late Saturday.

1 other person, the boy’s mother, in critical condition with gunshot wound.

26, age of the boy’s father, who police say turned gun on himself after fleeing scene and leading police on chase.

11 shell casings from Ruger 9 mm

10th birthday, when Noah Lamey of Norwood got a heart transplant. Nice gift.

1st and 3rd-degree murder charges formally filed against Richard Plotts, suspect in Fitz shooting.

3 men busted on drug charges inside Upper Darby apartment.

2 men being questioned in carjacking and crash that took the lives of 3 children in Philly.

110,000 dollar reward in the case.

5 people shot, 1 fatally, in North Philly early this morning.

5 people in 1 family shot dead in Maine.

20, age of man killed when lightning struck a beach in Venice, Calif.

20 people hit by the bolt.

4-2 win for the Phils over the D-Backs.

2 minutes, 55 seconds, how long the review took that ruled Ryan Howard safe at the plate because the catcher was blocking his path.

4 hits over 7 innings in a good outing for Phils starter Roberto Hernandez.

25th save in 28 chance for Jonathan Papelbon

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

Ryan Howard had to be kidding, right? Anyone want to trade places with the first baseman?

I Don’t Get It: The county had barely stopped reeling from gun violence at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital when gunfire erupted in Ridley. A 5-year-old boy was killed.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to all those who rallied around young Noah Lamey of Norwood. He got a new heart in a transplant on his 10th birthday. Nice gift.

Quote Box: “We never thought this would happen.”

- Daneesha Hill, sister of Ridley shooting victim Shyema Washington.

One gun incident after another

The county was still reeling from the gun violence that rang out at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital when it happened again.
This time police say a domestic incident in Ridley spun out of control.

A man opened fire outside an apartment, killing his 5-year-old son and critically injuring his estranged girlfriend.

The man then fled the scene and led police on chase. He eventually turned the gun on himself, taking his own life.

We used our editorial page today to talk about gun violence, and how to keep guns out of the hands of people who clearly should not possess them.

But that would not have stopped the tragedy that unfolded in Ridley late Saturday night.

Police say Tyrell Styles legally owned the Ruger 9 mm he used to snuff out the life of his son.

So what is the answer? I don't know. All I know is that we have a problem in this country with guns. And it's time we did something about it, preferably before the next incident occurs.

The White House and a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I used my print column today to talk about something that has been bothering me for awhile.

I think we have lost respect for the office of the president.

I say that not because I always agree with President Barack Obama. I don't.

I also am fully aware of the treatment that President George W. Bush received for eight years.

This is different. And I think you know what I mean.

I hope Ryan Howard was kidding

Ryan Howard had a bad week, if there can be such a thing when you're a professional baseball player.

The Phillies slugger, in the midst of a woeful slump, found himself in an unfamiliar position this week, on the bench.

Manager Ryne Sandberg gave his cleanup hitter a spot on the pine three straight days, including a game in which the opponent on the mound was Tim Hudson, a right-hander Howard has tortured over his career.

Yesterday, Howard was back in the No. 4 spot and served notice early on that he was back. He hit one of his trademark towering homers to left-center to give the Phils a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning.

Later he was involved in a key play in which he appeared to be dead at the plate attempting to score when D-Backs second baseman Didi Gregorius butchered a pop fly. Howard was out by a good 15 feet. However, after being tagged out, Howard motioned that Arizona catcher Miguel Montero.

The go-ahead run held up as the Phils hung on for a 4-2 win.

After the game, Howard was asked about his week.

"Want to trade places?" Howard quickly responded. "Want to see what it's like? No, you don't."

I couldn't see a smile, but I am hoping Howard was kidding.

Howard gets paid a ridiculous amount of money to play baseball. I don't begrudge him one penny of it. Any time someone asks me how professional athletes can be paid so much, I always answer the same way: Because they can.

That's the way the system works. No one forced the Phillies to lavish Howard with that outlandish contract extension that now hangs around the franchise's neck like a millstone.

Also remember this, nobody walks away from money?

Remember when Reggie White said God told him to play in Green Bay? Yeah, right, that and a boatload of cash.

I will never boo or badmouth Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins or Cole Hamels. Do you know why? Because they did something very few pro athletes in this town have done. They gave us a parade.

That said, Howard needs a reality check.

Would I trade places? In a heartbeat.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Friday, July 25

The Daily Numbers: 1 person shot and killed in exchange of gunfire inside Wellness Center at Mercy Fitzgerald Medical Center Thursday.

2 others wounded, including a doctor and the gunman.

2:21 p.m., when the first call came in for the shooting.

53, age of caseworker who was killed in the gunfire.

49, age of the suspect, who is in critical condition. The doctor, who is believed to have returned fire to stop the shooter, suffered a graze wound.

3 gunshots suffered by the shooter.

2 gunshot to the face suffered by the caseworker who died of her injuries.

3 different occasion when the suspect was committed to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

3 arrests for illegal possession of firearms that go back to the 1990s.

25 years, how long Silverman has been practicing medicine.

213 beds at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital.

186,000 patients served there every year. 2 hours, how long the facility was in a lockdown as hundreds of law enforcement personnel swarmed the facility.

I Don’t Get It: It’s pretty clear this is an instance of a person having a gun who had no business possessing one, with deadly results. Today’s Upper: Kudos to Dr. Lee Silverman, who returned fire and likely prevented further tragedy. Quote Box: “Without a doubt, I believe the doctor saves lives."

- Yeadon Police Chief Don Molineaux

The smoking guns of Mercy Fitzgerald

The door to my office is almost always open.

If it's closed, a buzz usually spreads through the newsroom. That's because the closed door often is a sign of bad news. It was again yesterday, but not for the reason you might think.

I was actually on a conference call along with our regional editorial board with Gov. Tom Corbett, who is in the midst of a statewide tour to push his quest to have the Legislature take up pension reform.

But toward the end of the call, a knock on the door interrupted me. Now, normally my staff does not deign to open that door when it is closed and they know I'm inside.

It better be pretty important.

It was.

Associate Editor Joe Hart handed me a note that indicated reports of shots being fired at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby Borough. We had two staffers, a reporter and photographer, en route.

The next couple of hours are a blew.

A few hours later - and after one of the worst nights of sleep I've had in a long time, including a recurring nightmare I just can't seem to shake - several things stand out to me.

First and foremost, please a life was lost in the Wellness Center across from Fitz yesterday. Let's not lose sight of that. Theresa Hunt, 53, a caseworker at the facility, was shot and killed. We mourn for her.

We also mourn for one more instance of gun violence. Only this time it hit home, right here in Delaware County.

I don't think there is much argument that this involves one more situation involving a person who clearly should not have had a gun.

The suspected shooter, Richard Plotts, from Upper Darby, is believed to have had serious mental issues as well as a long list of problems with the law.

It will make those who struggle with gun control issues in this country simply that much more exasperated.

But there is another angle you will no doubt hear about this story, one that is often pointed out by gun advocates.

When the gunfire broke out inside the Wellness Center, Plotts was stopped in large part because Dr. Lee Silverman returned fire on him with his own gun, according to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.

The two then struggled and spilled out into the hallway, where other staffers helped subdue the suspect.

We do not as yet know what touched off the altercation or what Plotts' motives were. We know gunshots were exchanged.

Hunt was killed. Silverman suffered a graze wound to the head, and returned fire, critically wounding Plotts.

We don't know if Plotts had any intention of shooting others in the facility.

Thankfully, we didn't find out, due to the actions of Dr. Silverman. Interestingly enough, the hospital apparently has a policy against employees - other than security or police - carrying firearms.

Yeadon chief Donald Molineaux did not hesitate to hail the doctor's actions.

He "without a doubt saved lives," the chief said. "Withouth that firearm, this guy could have went out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition.

Don't think for a minute this scenario is not going to be repeated again and again by those who insist that the answer to stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

I don't expect that argument to end anytime soon.

Call it the smoking guns of Mercy Fitzgerald, the day when the gun crisis in this nation once again hit home.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Thursday, July 24

The Daily Numbers: 29, age of McDonald’s worker in Radnor who now faces charges of selling crack cocaine from the parking lot.

11, age of youth who walked into Upper Darby Police substation to show authorities injuries he allegedly received from his mom, who is charged with beating him with her fists and a belt.

27 lacerations on the boy’s body.

45 members of the Chester Cheetahs track club who are headed to a national Junior Olympic competition in Iowa.

1.8 percent uptick in ridership on SEPTA’s regional rail lines.

36.7 million trips taken on the rail system in fiscal year 2013.

330 million riders on SEPTA’s trains, buses and trolleys

2.1 percent decline in ridership overall.

13 million dollar profit for Delta Air Lines’ Monroe Energy in the 2nd quarter.

889 million dollar profit for Delta in the quarter, fueled by the refinery.

600 registered nurses who continue to negotiate a new deal with Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

5.1 percent decline in home sales in Delco in 1st 6 months of 2014.

2,571 sales in that span here in Delco.

4,099 sales for Montco, 3,025 for Bucks and 2,713 for Chester County. All those are declines.

6 traffic judges in Philly acquitted on charges in a ticket-fixing case.

4 judges convicted of lying to authorities.

26 point dip for the stock market yesterday.

61 percent surge in revenue for Facebook in the quarter, up to $2.91 billion.

8 shutout innings from starter A.J. Burnett by the Phils, who fell 3-1 to the Giants.

2 straight nights Jonathan Papelbon has failed to get the job done.

7 hits for the Phils, who did not have Ryan Howard in the lineup.

4 straight losses for the Phils. They’ve now dropped 7 of last 8.

1 more day until start of Eagles Training Camp.

4 games to be missed by starting right tackle Lane Johnson, who got caught using a banned substance.

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

Jonathan Papelbon, who has been money in the bank all year, picked a very bad time to go in the tank. He suffered a 2nd straight meltdown last night, just as Ruben Amaro Jr. no doubt would like to move him for some prospects.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to those holding a fundraiser Saturday night for hit-run victim Christopher Brooks. He was badly injured, losing part of his right leg, and the fundraiser will help him acquire a prosthetic leg.

Quote Box: “He was essentially working at the McDonald’s and when not working on the crew and preparing food he was out in the rear parking lot selling crack cocaine.”

- Radnor Lt. Andy Block, on arrest of fast-food worker.

A salute to Wawa No. 1

We used our editorial page today to note the passing of a Delco icon.

The very first Wawa convenience store, located on MacDade Boulevard in Ridley, will close its doors when a new 'Super Wawa' opens its doors a couple of blocks away.

Wawa has managed to do something unique in business, something in fact that I hope this newspaper and website also have attained.

They've become an intimate part of their customers' lives.

We don't go to the convenience store. We make Wawa runs.

It's really that simple.

Here's our editorial salute to a little piece of Delco history.

It's time to vote for Best of Delco!

This is the day that a lot of Delco businesses wait patiently for each year.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! Or at least your voting.

We kick off voting in our annual Best of Delco competition today.

Here's a story that runs down some of the new wrinkles in this year's competition, including one that I love that involves - what else? - selfies!

You can vote online here.

Paper ballots will be available at many local businesses and will appear in a special section that will be inserted in Friday's Daily Times.

Make sure your vote is counted!

Nothing going right for Amaro, Phils

Things just don't get any easier for Ruben Amaro Jr.

He brought back lefty ace Cliff Lee for a cameo appearance before the trade deadline and he got shelled. Lee likely will get just one more start before next week's trade deadline.

One of the very few chips Amaro has in his arsenal that could bring the Phils the prospects they so desperately need is closer Jonathan Papelbon. Unfortunately, the closer picked an awful time to careen off the tracks. For the second straight night, Papelbon was part of a 9th inning meltdown that cost the Phils a game.

In the meantime, the Phils wasted a gem from A.J. Burnett, who shut out the Giants for eight innings.

Dennis Deitch has all the details as this gruesome Phillies season threatens to go completely off a cliff.

In the meantime, we used our 'Live From the Newsroom' show last night to preview Eagles Training Camp.

Beat writer Bob Grotz was joined by local sports talk radio host Billy Werndl, from WCHE 1520-AM out in West Chester.

Both Grotz and Werndl expect the Birds to be a playoff team, but not quite Super Bowl material.

My special thanks to longtime Eagles season ticker holder Bob Rostron of Media, who joined us and gave us some great insight from a fan's view as expectations are running off the charts on what is a much-anticipated season.

If you missed the show, you can catch the replay here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Wednesday, July 23

The Daily Numbers: 15-30 years for 1 of 2 Chester brothers charged in the fatal shooting of a man in Darby Borough.

16,000-square-foot rail transfer box a company wants to build in Chester as part of its trash-burning expansion plans. The plan will not be voted on tonight by Chester City Council.

500,000 tons of municipal garbage Covanta wants to bring to Chester from New York City.

80 megawatts of electricity created from the trash burning.

0.2 general fund surplus for the county that led Standard & Poor’s to affirm its AA credit rating.

3rd DUI charge for a Philadelphia man after he was involved in a crash in Upper Darby.

34, age of Philly man charged in a road rage incident in Collingdale that police say escalated into a stabbing.

11 a.m., when a teen walking on Providence Road in Nether Providence reports a man tried to get her to get into his car.

2 hearings set Wednesday and Thursday on plans to construct pipeline to get oil being delivered by train to Eddystone to the Monroe Energy plant in Trainer.

7th death now being attributed to last summer’s deadly building collapse in Philly. A man who died several weeks later has filed suit.

0 flights from the U.S. to Tel Aviv yesterday after the FAA placed a 24-ban because of the fear of rockets near the airport.

61 point gain for the stock market despite international turmoil yesterday.

15 percent boost for Comcast revenue.

14 innings, how long it took for the Phils to fall to the Giants last night.

3rd blown save for Jonathan Papelbon, who surrendered a lead in the 9th to send the game to extra innings.

6-7 mark for the Phillies in extra inning game this year.

43-57 overall record for Phils, an ugly 14 games under .500

2 days until Eagles report to training camp

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

Eagles Training Camp can’t get here soon enough.

I Don’t Get It: How does someone who already has 2 DUI convictions get back behind the wheel while impaired? I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to Delco, which had its AA credit rating affirmed by Standard & Poor’s

Quote Box: “I just want to say sorry to his mom.”

- Jermaine Roberts, after being sentenced in fatal shooting of Darby Borough man.

A pizza question for Delco history buffs

Today we have a question from a longtime reader.

I didn't know the answer so I thought I'd put it out there for our readers.

Pat Lane is trying to get some information on an old pizza shop in Chester. She believes it was on either Seventh and Morton or maybe Ninth and Morton in Chester back in the mid-'60s. It was called ReDavid's and may have had a bar attached.

Here's the kicker. Pat's mouth still waters for intoxicating mix of cheeses they used on their pies.

"To this day, I have never had a pizza as good as those from ReDavid," Par said.

I know how she feels. I'm a dedicated Grotto fan. Every time in Rehoboth (which is not nearly enough) I have to get my Grotto slice. Their pizza has a distinctive 'zing' to it from the combination of cheese they use. For some reason, it always tastes better at the beach. It doesn't seem as good in Wilmington or Newark.

Any how, can someone help Pat out? Post a comment and I will try to relay it to her.

'Live From the Newsroom' previews Eagles training camp

You can stick a fork in the Phillies. Last night's 14th inning loss was almost too painful to watch.

Even Jonathan Papelbon, who has beeen Mr. Dependable this year, coughed up a lead in the 9th and the Phils eventually fell in 14.

Luckily, we bring relief to suffering Philly fans.

The Eagles report for training camp in just two days.

That's right, Year Two of the Chip Kelly Era is on the horizon.

To celebrate, we’ll have our Eagles beat writer Bob Grotz join us tonight to preview the Birds Training Camp. Also on our Birds panel will be local sports radio talk show host Billy Werndl, a longtime presence in Philly sports media who hosts Sports Talk of Chester Couty on WCHE-1520 AM in West Chester, as well as a longtime season ticket holder, Bob Ristron.

We'll also tell you which practices will be open to fans, and whether or not you need tickets. Longtime fans will want to get the details on a special open practice the team will hold at their old home on the Penn campus. That, of course would be Franklin Field.

In the meantime, if you have a question you'd like answered about the Birds, email it to me at and I'll put it to our Eagles authority, Bob Grotz.

Then tune in at 7 and take part in our live chat.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Tuesday, July 22

The Daily Numbers: 6 months, that’s how long a group has in Darby Borough to save a 25-year-old home many believe has significant historical ties.

75,000 dollars, how much the group needs to acquire the site from the developer.

35 residents who showed up last night for a public hearing on the planned demolition of the old Kent Mills in Clifton Heights.

15-1 margin when it comes to fundraising. That’s how much more U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan has raised compared to his Democratic challenger Mary Ellen Balchunis.

243,600 dollars raised in the period May 1 to June 30 by Meehan.

15,310 raised by Balchunis.

72, age of woman doing tutoring in her home who is being targeted by zoning officials in Upper Darby.

2.2 percent salary hike for administrators in the Upper Darby School District.

11:30 p.m., when a woman says she was held up at gunpoint as she got off the trolley in Aldan.

34, age of Marple man who entered plea in child porn case this week.

120 dollars and a gold necklace, what 2 men got during burglary in which they strangled a Philly couple to death.

4 state legislators who now face an ethics probe tied to allegations they accepted cash gifts.

190 million dollars, how much Johns Hopkins Health Systems in Baltimore is paying to settle suits brought by patients who were unknowingly videotaped by rogue doc during procedures.

25 Israeli soldiers now killed in the ground incursion into Gaza.

48 point decline for stock market yesterday.

14 hits last night for the Phils. Every one of them singles.

7-4 loss to the Giants.

6 runs on 12 hits in 5 2//3 innings for Cliff Lee in his return to the hill.

3 days until Eagles report for training camp.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan. The Phillies are now using metal detectors on fans entering the park at one gate. If they’re looking for weapons of mass destruction, I think we can rule out the Phils’ bats.

I Don’t Get It: No one should have to deal with the grief heaped on the families of the victims of Malaysia Flight 17. The fact that they now can’t get the bodies of their loved ones back from Russia is almost beyond belief. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the community in Yeadon, Darby and Sharon Hill who are rallying to aid the victims of the fatal fire that took the lives of 4 children a few blocks away in Southwest Philly.

Quote Box: “I don’t want people to think I’m a coldhearted developer who does not care about the town and a history of that building.”

- Developer Davoud Baravordeh, who owns the historic property on Darby Terrace in Darby Borough. He’s going to give the community six months to raise the money to save the structure.

Long & 'shorti' of it: Delco losing a little piece of its history

There's something incredibly comforting about Wawa.

It's not a convenience store, it's a way of life. At least it is in this area. I'm sure the people out in the central part of the state feel the same way about Scheetz (even if we all know that Wawa is far superior, with perhaps the one asterisk being that you can actually buy beer in some Sheetz stores, at least the ones I hit when visiting my son in West Virginia).

It seems like every neighborhood has its own Wawa.

It becomes part of our daily routine, a part of our lives. I know that when I visit our little Wawa here in Primos every day at lunchtime, I see many of the same people. I'm greeted by name by the manager.

For some reason, other stores just don't have the same feel.

Maybe that's why there was such a reaction to the news that Delaware County is losing a little bit of its history, and that of Wawa as well.

The historic store No. 1, the very first Wawa outlet, on MacDade Boulevard in Ridley, is going to bite the dust. Last week we reported that a proposal for a new "super" Wawa has been given the green light for the intersection of MacDade Boulevard and Route 420.

When it opens, old No. 1 will close.

It was just a few weeks ago that company executives gathered at the old Folsom store to mark the 50th anniversary of its opening. The store opened its doors on April 16, 1964.

I thought the passing of the historic store merited a little more attention. So we did a follow-up story and splashed it all over Page One on Monday. The overline noted the end of an era: End of the line for historic Wawa store. I was responsible for the lead head: 1 ... & done. That's a play on words to denote the fact that the original No. 1 Wawa will close its doors. I also liked the head we used inside on the story on P. 3: "What's good for the goose: Wawa closing first store."

That of course is a reference to a question that always puzzles newcomers and visitors to the region: What the hell is a Wawa anyhow. We locals of course know Wawa is the native American word for the Canadian goose that was found in this area.

Of course once the story graced our front page, everyone jumped on it. It was all over TV and radio yesterday. The Inky also noted its passing.

Old No. 1 will remain open until the new super store opens.

Wawa spokesperson Susan Bratton put a good spin on it: "It will still be store No. 1 for us, even if it's a new store." She's the regional real estate manager for Wawa.

I have to admit I'm partial to the old Wawas. I wonder how long our little Wawa a block away here in Primos will be able to hold out.

I guess that's the price of progress.

Maybe you can call it the long and 'shorti' of it.

No weapons of mass destruction in this Phils' lineup

The Phillies are now utilizing metal detectors on fans as they enter Citizens Bank Park. Before they go through the gates, fans are scanned by the metal detectors at the right-field entrance to the park.

It's part of a security move by Major League Baseball. Next year all fans will be screened as they enter stadiums. The Phillies decided to get a jump-start on things and are testing the program at one gate, starting last night.

If they're looking for weapons of mass destruction, I think we can safely rule out the Phillies' bats.

Last night they rapped out 14 hits - every one of them singles.

Add to that a less than stellar outing by Cliff Lee in his return from the disabled list - and apparently in front of a slew of major league scouts in town to check him out as the trade deadline looms next week, and it was a not a good night for the Phils.

Lee was not sharp, just as he was in his last rehab start in Clearwater. The lefty got dinged for six runs on 12 hits in going just five and two-thirds innings. Just to rub a bit of salt in the wounds, three of those hits were by Hunter Pence, who once patrolled right field at Citizens Bank Park.

The Giants rolled, 7-4.

Where does this leave the Phils, and embattled GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Without a lot of options. There are reports out there that the Phillies have taken ace Cole Hamels off the market. That's probably a good thing. Pretty much everyone else on this roster is potential trade bait.

The problem is none of them is likely to bring much in return.

Lee didn't seem especially concerned about the idea of all those scouts in town to check him out.

"I could care less about the scouts in the stands or trade rumors or anything like that," Lee said.

Ruben Amaro doesn't have that luxury.

He's got to try to salvage this mess.

And he has nine days to do it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Monday, July 21

The Daily Numbers: 50 years ago, when Wawa opened its 1st store on MacDade Boulevard in Ridley. The store will soon be closed when Wawa constructs a new Super Wawa.

12 kids from the Chester Boys and Girls Clubs who got the opportunity to try the country life on a visit to a horse farm in Garnet Valley.

1,000 jobs that will be coming to Concord with the building of a new shopping center and Wegmans supermarket at Routes 1 and 202.

187,000 square foot Wegmans story being planned, including a 5,900-square-foot patio for outdoor dining. 50 years marked this weekend by Karakung Swim Club in Haverford.

2 tenants in the Radnor Court complex, which is going on the market.

65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers dead in Gaza strife.

86, age of TV and movie icon James Garner, who died on Sunday.

5.2 billion dollars, how much Atlantic City casinos made in 2006, just before legalized gambling came to Pa.

4.286 billion, what they took in last year.

36 years, how long gambling has been legal in Atlantic City.

1 casino, The Atlantic Club, shut down; 2 others, Showboat and Trump Plaza, that will close later this year.

1, Revel, seeking a buyer.

8-2 loss for the Phillies in Atlanta yesterday.

1 hour, 39 minute rain delay in the game.

5 innings for Kyle Kendrick, who gave up 6 runs on 5 hits.

2 walks and 2 hit batters for the shaky Kendrick, who saw his ERA rise to .487.

4-10 mark for Kendrick, whose spot in the starting rotation now seems to be in jeopardy.

4 days until the Eagles report to training camp.

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

After spending much of the afternoon listening to the travails of Kyle Kendrick I can safely say this: Eagles training camp can’t start soon enough.

I Don’t Get It: Everybody who does not think Russia was involved in shooting down that airline, raise your hands. I thought so. I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the staff at All Riders Up, the horse farm in Garnet Valley which hosted a group of kids from Chester last week.

Quote Box: “It will still be store No. 1 for us, even though it’s a new store.”

- Wawa spokesperson Susan Bratton, the move to shutter the chain’s historic 1st store when it opens a new super store.

Delco's history in pictures

When it comes to Delaware County history, not many people know more than Keith Lockhart.

The retired police officer and lifelong Delco resident first became interested in the history of this county in his late teens.

A graduate of Penn State he has been collecting and researching the county's history for the last 40 some years. From maps, books and pictures he has put together one of the largest private collections of Delaware County History. He has written on the county's history in books, booklets and had a history column for Town Talk for over 15 years.

Lockhart serves on the board of the Colonial Plantation and the Delaware County Historical Society. He also gives lectures and presentations to numerous groups in the county.

With the county about to celebrate its 225th birthday in September, we decided to feature some of Keith's treasure trove of historical photos.

You can see a gallery of his images here.

We'll have more of them in the weeks leading up to what promises to be a bang-up 225th birthday celebration.

When it rains it pours for this Phillies team

I don't think it is a stretch to say this is not the way the Phillies wanted to start the second half.

Take away Cole Hamels' gem Saturday night in which he was almost unhittable, and the Phils went 0-for-Atlanta.

Yesterday things got ugly as the Braves battered Kyle Kendrick en route to an 8-2 win. And is there anything quite as frustrating as a one hour, 39 minute rain delay when you getting your behind kicked?

Kendrock was dreadful again. He went 5 innings, giving up 6 runs on 5 hits, in the process raising his ERA to 4.87 as he collected his 10th loss of the season. He also walked two and hit two other batters.

As Ruben Amaro Jr. decides which pieces he might want to try to move as the trade deadline looms in two weeks, you have to think Hamels is now off that list, unless somebody just overwhelms the Phils with an offer.

One name that might be on that list gets back on the hill tonight. Cliff Lee will be the starter as the Phils kick off a home stand against the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park.

It would be nice if Lee used these next couple of starts to show people he's fully recovered from the elbow strain that put him on the shelf. The problem is he got roughed up in his last rehab start in Clearwater.

The Phillies are 12 games under .500 at 43-55, 11 games out of first place in the NL East.

The only player they have who would command a king's ransom is Hamels, and he's probably the one player they should not move.

Amaro's task is not an easy one. He has an aging core of players who are starting to look every bit their age, and a young crew who have not played up to expectations. The minors? Forget about it, there's little help there.

Good thing the Eagles start camp later this week.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Friday, July 18

The Daily Numbers: 298 people on board Malaysian jet believed to have been shot down over the Ukraine.

2 air catastrophes this year involving Malaysian Airlines. There has still been no sign of jet that disappeared months ago.

1.2 million dollars, what the feds say the government was ripped off for by the head of a Folcroft business.

26 years practicing law for new Delco Common Pleas Judge Anthony Scanlon, who took the oath Thursday.

19, age of suspected carjacker who got more than he bargained for and wound up shooting himself while struggling with the victim.

90,000 cars a day that use I-495 in Wilmington, which has been closed for bridge repairs. Before his speech, he stopped for lunch at the Charcoal Pit on Route 202.

4 acre site on Route 420 at MacDade Boulevard that is being proposed for a new Super Wawa convenience store.

600 dollar hike in tuition for students at Temple University

18,000 jobs being cut by Microsoft.

161 point plunge yesterday for the Dow.

4.13 percent, average rate on 30-year mortgage.

89, age of Broadway legend Elaine Stritch, who died.

42-53, Phillies record as they kick off the 2nd half tonight in Atlanta.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan. Raise your hand if you’d like Tiger Woods to be in contention Sunday in the final round of the British Open? Yeah, me too.

I Don’t Get It: We now apparently live in a world where people actually will not think twice about shooting passenger planes out of the sky. Swell.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to those diners who were treated to a special lunch guest yesterday when President Obama decided to drop by the Charcoal Pit on Route 202 outside Wilmington.

Quote Box: “I thought I was on MSNBC-Live.”

- Diner at the Charcoal Pit amid the commotion of presidential visit.

No shortage of beefs with Obama - it's the 'Pits'

There are very few things I can count on in this business.

This is one of them.

There are a lot of people in this country who really, truly, deeply dislike the president.

A lot of them simply disagree with his policies. Others don't like him for other reasons.

An anonymous gentleman who leaves me a voice mail overnight several times a week made it clear this morning of his disgust with the president.

He believes we should apologize for our endorsement of Obama, and wonders if we're embarrassed.

I will admit that his second term has been disappointing. I have serious concerns about what happened at Benghazi as well as that IRS debacle. But I'm not about to go where this gentleman immediately went.

He said he understood "the demographics," and that we had to endorse Obama because our readership is largely black. This is the kind of sentiment I deal with every day.

I fear that we have lost respect for the office of the president. There was a time when no matter what you thought of the person residing in the White House, he commanded a modicum of respect. Every time I bring up that matter these days, Republicans remind me of the way the media went after and often mocked George W. Bush. I didn't, I tried to be respectful, but a lot of people did not.

On Thursday the president was due to come to Delaware to make a pitch for increased transportation funding, using the closed I-495 bridge in Wilmington as a backdrop.

On his way, his motorcade made a slight detour. He stopped at a place I've been many times, The Charcoal Pit down on Route 202, for lunch.

I immediately cobbled together a story and posted it on our website, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

The reaction was about what you might expect. The story exploded. It didn't take long for the comments to go where all too much of what is talked about with Obama wind up.

Look, I'll be the first to admit that I raised an eyebrow that the president did not change his plans after hearing of the Ukraine jet disaster.

If you want to disagree with him on those grounds, I have no problem with that.

But as usual, this kind of stuff went way beyond that, and simply devolved into name-calling and worse.

This is the world we live in.

Then again, I suppose you could say that in a world where 295 people were just shot out of the sky, Israel was launching a ground incursion into Gaza, and Microsoft was laying off 18,000 people, why the hell do we care about where the president went for lunch?

Welcome to my world.

It is Friday, isn't it?

Things to be thankful for: Growing up before there was an Internet

Two recent events remind me of something I am eternally grateful for - that I grew up before there was an Internet, and before capturing events on video was as simple as picking up your phone.

It is in that spirit that I am saddened by the death of one of my favorite rockers, blues legend Johnny Winter.

It reminded me again how old I am. I had a lot of music by both Winter and his brother Edgar. Unfortunately, they were all on 8-tracks. Yeah, I'm old.

It also reminded me of a stunt I pulled with a few friends in high school. It was pretty widely known in our circle that I did something of a mean Johnny Winter imitation. We once locked the doors to the high school auditorium while I did a hellacious imitation of Johnny Winter and his classic Rock 'n' Roll Hootchie Koo on stage, with the PA system cranked all the way up.

Mrs. McClure, the music teacher whose class we were supposed to be gracing, was not amused. Neither was the principal. Thankfully, there is no proof that we were every bit the knuckleheads we were rumored to be.

Just one more of my finer moments. Lawdy, mama, light my fuse!

Then just a few weeks ago, my daughter got married on a glorious Saturday.

You may not know it to look at all this gray hair, but I fashion myself as something of a great dancer.

My daughter had already warned her in-laws about me, and she banned me from the microphone, fearing what her old man might blurt out.

But she couldn't keep me off the dance floor.

As the festivities began to heat up, I approached the DJ and made my one request of the day.

Maybe you'll recognize it. If you were one of the faithful who used to flock to the best disco in the area back in the early '80s, I'm sure you will. Right around midnight they would crank this baby up at The Library on City Line Avenue and the place would go bonkers.

What the heck, it is Friday, and we could all use a little levity in our lives.

Thus, I give you the best dance song ever recorded. Enjoy.

So far, no video evidence of my performance at the reception has surfaced. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

How I managed to get a parking ticket in the Daily Times lot

I've been pranked, or I guess today they refer to this as punk'd.

And I have to admit it was a pretty good one, pulled by my own staff, with the help of one of Upper Darby's finest.

This all started Tuesday afternoon as I was leaving the office. Naturally, just as I decided to head for the car, the skies opened up and it started to pour.

So I trudged back to my office, grabbed an umbrella, then braved the elements as I dashed to my car for what promised to be a soggy ride home.

That's when things took a decided turn for the worst. There was no mistaking the bright orange envelope stuck under my windshield wiper. Not much doubt about it, I had gotten a parking ticket.

Which was kind of interesting seeing as how my car had not left that parking spot in our company lot all day.

I juggled the umbrella and my brief case and snagged the envelope, which now was soaking wet.

It sure looked real, and it appeared I had received a parking ticket in the Daily Times parking lot.

Let me explain. Our parking lot is not in the best of shape. My personal parking spot (yeah, one of the perks of the job) happens to have a large depression right where my left front tire would sit. To avoid this I have taken to actually straddling the white line in the parking spot next to mine, which is not a problem since it's usually empty anyhow.

On Monday one of my staffers was taking a break in front of the building at the same time one of Upper Darby's finest was visiting the office.

As the officer exited, he was approached (notice there is no allegedlys being used in this saga)and agreed to take part in the ruse - a bogus parking ticket for the editor who was clearly double-parked.

Of course, no one bothered to let me in on the joke. So the next morning, with the ticket now dried out, I could make out that it was issued at 13:15 p.m. at 500 Mildred Ave. for double-parking.

Since I know that Mike Chitwood's guys are now active on social media, I fired off a tweet of my own: Very funny, @UDPolice, @ChiefMChitwood! I get a ticket for double parking in my own spot in the Times' parking lot? Tell me this is a prank!

It didn't take long for them to respond. It was news to them.

Later in the morning I got a call from Dave Madonna asking me to call him about this 'insane' parking ticket.

It was about that time that my staff came clean and admitted the prank. I quickly gave Madonna a call back and let him know.

The name of my staffer - and the officer - will not be released to protect the guilty.

Nice one, guys.

But you've been warned: I owe you one.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Thursday, July 17

The Daily Numbers: 24, age of suspect who will face trial for pushing a gun in the fact of the wife of Chester Mayor John Linder during a carjack attempt.

4-10 years in prison for a Chester Township man in the armed robbery of a pizza delivery man.

15, age of teen who took stand yesterday in the trial of a Chester man on trial for sexually assaulting him.

50 middle and high school kids from abroad who are spending some time in Delco as part of the Delco IU’s English Language Learners camp.

21 and 15, age of 2 suspects who face charges in armed holdup of a Dunkin Donuts in Concord.

52 million dollars, assessed value of the Granite Run Mall for 2013. That will be reduced to $42 million this year and $32 million next year.

1 more mosquito that tested positive for West Nile virus in Delco.

2 men shot in an ambush attack in the Fairhill section of Philly.

3 percent overall boost in revenue recorded by Pa. casinos this fiscal year, sparked by surge in table games play.

4.5 percent dip for the numbers for slot machines.

1.5 million dollars that will be saying in the pockets of Philly strip club owners now that a judge has nixed an attempt by the city to tax lap dances.

22, age of man charged with killing a recent college grad in Philly and then stuffing her body in a duffel bag. He lived in the same building.

27.4 billion dollars, how much tobacco firm Reynolds American is paying to acquire rival Lorillard.

77 point surge for the stock market yesterday.

1.3 billion dollars, what the Philadelphia Eagles are worth, according to Forbes Magazine.

17th place, where Eagles rank in terms of the world’s most valuable sports franchises.

37th place for the Phillies, with a value placed at $975 million.

3.4 billion for Real Madrid soccer team to claim the top spot.

2.5 billion for the Yankees, the highest-ranked American team, good for 4th place.

3-1 win for the Union over the Red Bulls in MLS action last night.

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

Don’t expect a miracle in the 2nd half from the Phillies. That’s the word from beat writer Dennis Deitch. And don’t expect an easy turnaround via trades at the trade deadline either. Ouch!

I Don’t Get It: A recent college grade walks in on an apparent burglary in her apartment in Philly and pays for it with her life. A man who lived in the building is now charged with her murder. His mother says he had “issues.” Ya think?

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the 30 kids who performed last night in ‘The Vocalist’ competition at Media Theatre. Outstanding!

Quote Box: “I started to back up, then I ran and I started screaming for help.”

- Jourdeana Linder, wife of Chester Mayor John Linder, detailing her carjacking ordeal in court yesterday.

Your tax dollars at work

Ever wonder where all that money from that $2.3 billion transportation package passed by the state Legislature is going? Have you driven past Rose Tree Park in Upper Providence lately?

I suggest you do it - preferably in the early-morning hours when I roll through. You can really see how the project to remake this longtime traffic bottleneck is taking shape, widening the intersection to allow better access and turn lanes at the intersection with Rose Tree Road.

It's a $5 million project.

On our editorial page today, we note that while no one wants to pay more for gas and fees, the result is worth it. In this case, you really do get what you pay for.

President Obama will get in the act today. He will pay a visit to the closed I-495 bridge in Wilmington as he makes a push for a huge infusion of new federal transportation funding to attack the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

Delco's got talent! My night as a judge at 'The Vocalist'

People are quick these days to put down young people, from the way they dress, to the way they talk, and the way they act.

I got another view last night.

I was a guest judge for Week 2 of the Media Theatre's summer talent competition, 'The Vocalist.' I got a first-hand look at just how talented a lot of our young people are. I saw 30 young people walk out on a stage and sing their hearts out in front of a packed house.

For some reason, Roger Ricker from Media Theatre asked me if I'd like to serve as one of their weekly volunteer celebrity judges. I'm not exactly sure I qualify as much of a celebrity, but I was more than happy to take part. I was joined by County Councilman Dave White.

They got a little more star power from the show's emcee, popular Fox-29 weather anchor Sue Serio, who is no stranger to the Media Theatre stage. She and her hubby, sports guy Bill Vargus, did the two-person show 'Love Letters' there last year.

Last week Delco rocker Debbi Calton, the stalwart DJ who just marked 20 years at classic rock station WMGK, was a celebrity judge.

This week they lowered their standards with a newspaper editor.

We used the occasion to take our live-stream Internet broadcast, 'Live From the Newsroom,' out to the theatre as sort of a warm-up act. Media Theatre Artistic Director Jesse Cline, who also serves as the chief judge for the competition, joined us and talked about how the show has grown from its origins as 'Delco Idol,' and the deep talent pool evidenced here in Delaware County. Many of the kids involved in the competition also are studying music as part of the theatre's education plans.

If you missed the show, you can see the replay here.

And if you're looking for a great night of entertainment, I highly recommend checking out the competition, which continues for the next three Wednesday nights.

Media is certainly a jumping place mid-week. State Street is packed with diners who show up for 'Dining Under the Stars,' when local restaurants shut down the main thoroughfare and set up their tables al fresco.

It's one of the county's summer highlights.

Our thanks to everyone at Media Theatre for welcoming us and the show again this year.

And best of luck to all the talented kids taking part in 'The Vocalist.'

I was impressed!

A grim outlook for Phillies

If you're one of those clinging to the notion that Messrs. Rollins, Utley, Howard et al - otherwise known as your 2014 Phillies - have one more bit of glory in the tank, I have some bad news.

Take a deep breath, then read beat writer Dennis Deitch's stark review of the first half and the bleak outlook for the rest of the season.

Maybe worse, for those who have already come to the conclusion that the Phillies need to blow this thing up and start over, Deitch notes that is not going to be that easy.

Ruben Amaro Jr. does not have a lot to offer teams as he seeks young prospects that might turn the franchise around. Are you depressed enough?

Hey, cheer up. It's going to be beautiful out today, with no hint of humidity and temperatures in the low 80s. Of course, if you're like me and prefer things hot and humid, the thicker the better, you may not necessarily be a happy camper.

If none of that works for you, there is always this.

The Eagles open training camp in eight days.

All together now: E-A-G-L-E-S!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Wednesday, July 16

The Daily Numbers: 14, age of Glenolden teen who was struck by lightning during Monday night’s wild storm. He’s going to be fine.

1 in 1.9 million, odds of being struck by lightning in any 1 year.

261 people killed by lightning in U.S. from 2006-2013.

7 people killed by lightning in Pa. during same time period.

37, age of suspect who turned himself in to police in Collingdale yesterday to face charges in hit-run case.

8-0 unanimous vote in Haverford to appeal a ruling that gives the green light for a 6,880 foot Walgreens on Darby Road.

50s, what our low temperature could be tonight as a cold front rumbles through, chasing all the storms and humidity. No, it’s not a return of the ‘Polar Vortex.’

6 month contract for Paula Brown as manager of Colwyn that is expiring.

22,500 dollars, how much Colwyn is paying the former Darby Borough mayor.

19 of August, when Ridley Park Borough Council now will take up that new ordinance regulating yard sales. Last night’s meeting had to be postponed.

23, age of recent college grad Laura Araujo, whose body was discovered stuffed in a duffel bag in Philly.

82, age of Pittsburgh conservative millionaire banker Richard Scaife, In his will he’s leaving much of his art collection to the Brandywine River Museum.

52, age of woman seriously injured when a rock dropped by teens from a bridge overpass in western Pa. went through her windshield and struck her in the face.

5 point increase for the stalled stock market yesterday.

1 hit for Chase Utley in last night’s All-Star Game. He came close to a homer but settled for a double. He also was hit by a pitch.

2 for 2 for Derek Jeter.

5-3 win for the AL, powered by two big hits by Millville’s Mike Trout.

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

Let me be the first to cast a vote against the Phillies dealing Cole Hamels. I know they need to rebuild. Trading their best pitcher is not the way to go about it.

I Don’t Get It: Game time temperatures in Minneapolis for last night’s All-Star Game were in the 50s. The cool front is headed here? Is this summer? I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to David Bodkin, who will have quite the tale to tell his classmates when he goes back to school. He survived being struck by lightning.

Quote Box: “Right now, I’m, in limbo.”

- Paula Brown on her status as Colwyn borough manager.

Delco teen survives being struck by lightning

David Bodkin might need a new nickname when he heads back to school in September.

We'd suggest 'Lucky.'

The 14-year-old will have quite the tale to tell, after he survived being struck by lightning as he walked toward a care in Glenolden during the wild thunderstorm that rumbled across the region Monday night.

It was just around 8 p.m. when Bodkin and a friend made a dash for the car as they prepared to head home to Prospect Park.

Bodkin didn't get that far.

He got hit by a lightning bolt between his wrist and thumb.

He was rushed to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, and then transferred to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Children's Hospital in Wilmington.

He's going to be fine.

The odds are being struck by lightning are one in 1.9 million. Bodkin should be good for the summer.

He's still one lucky kid.

'Live From the Newroom' takes on 'The Vocalist'

Excuse me while I limber up my vocal cords.

We'll be out on the road again tonight as we head back to Media, which is not only the county seat but the county hot spot on Wednesday nights.

We were there a couple of weeks ago to kick off their Wednesday night tradition of 'Dining Under the Stars,' when they shut down State Street and borough restaurants set up their tables in the middle of what just a few minutes before a main thoroughfare. It was a blast.

Tonight we're headed back to Media for another great summer tradition in the borough.

We'll be at the Media Theatre, serving as the opening act for Week 2 of their summer talent competition 'The Vocalist.' You might remember this contest by its former name, 'Delco Idol.'

It showcases some of the most talented singers from the region.

We'll be joined by some of the Media Theatre stalwarts, including Jesse Cline, the theatre's artistic director who serves as the primary judge for the competition, as well as a very familiar face. Sue Serio, the weather anchor from Fox-29, serves as emcee for the show. Sue knows all about the treasure of the Media Theatre. She and her husband, TV sports guy Bill Vargus, have starred in shows there.

We'll also talk to some of the kids set to perform.

After the show, it will be my honor to serve as one of the guest judges for tonight's competition.

Note that because 'The Vocalist' competition starts at 7, our 'Live From the Newsroom' show will air at a special time. We'll be live on from 6:30-7.

Join us!

Phils should keep Hamels

Here's a little nugget to mull over while we wait for baseball to resume after the All-Star break.

I notice that on Sunday, July 27, the Phillies giveaway item at Citizens Bank Park is a Cole Hamels T-shirt.

I like Cole. Sure, I poke fun at some of his California ways. But the truth is he strikes me as basically a nice guy who does a lot of good things in the community. His Cole Hamels Foundation routinely pours money into city schools that direly need it.

Besides, he's my wife's favorite Phillie.

All of which is nice. But he's also a stud pitcher, an ace and a relatively young one at that.

All of this is to say that I hope the T-shirt giveway is not something of a swansong. Hamels' name is being bandied about as the Phillies eye the trade deadline and consider the arduous rebuilding process that awaits.

Clearly the core of this team is on the downside of their careers. Yes, Chase Utley was an All-Star. He came close to homering in last night's Mid-Summer Classic. Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard also are likely closer to the end of their career.

I know that not all of these guys are going to be on this roster once the trade deadline passes.

I just hope Hamels is. Yes, I know he's their most valuable chip. But pitchers like him don't grow on trees. The Phils should keep Hamels and try to rebuild around him.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Daily Numbers for Tuesday, July 15

The Daily Numbers: 9,00 lightning strikes recorded during last night’s powerful storm.

29,800 people and businesses without power during storm last night.

5,025 in Delaware County

10,086 in Philadelphia, which took the brunt of the storm.

14, age of teen believed to have been struck by lightning in Glenolden.

2.9 million dollars, how much former Collingdale Councilman James Bryan admitted he stole from his former employer.

53, age of ex-strip club manager who pleaded guilty in the beating death of a Delco man.

350,000 how much a Montgomery County man must pay back in a scheme in which he would tamper with Peco meters.

150 homes affected by a noxious odor in Skippack. The problem is being tied to a gasoline leak that got into sump pumps.

4 percent increase in revenue in June for Atlantic City casinos, even as their numbers dwindle.

9.5 million in Internet gambling that is helping those numbers.

1,153 workers at Trump Plaza who received layoff notices Monday, that’s up from the expected number of 1,000.

7 billion being paid by Citigroup to settle claims from the subprime mortgage mess.

111 point spike for the stock market yesterday.

30 years, how long we’ve been holding the Champs ‘N’ Charity softball tournament. We’re taking a one-year sabbatical this year.

700,000 dollars, how much we’ve raised for charity by playing softball over the past 3 decades.

14 years, how long Chase Utley has been at second base for the Phillies. Winds of change might just blow Utley out of town in a trade.

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

Chase Utley likes the idea that he is wanted here in Philly. That won’t change should he be traded. But it still might need to happen.

I Don’t Get It: No one ever talks about the down side to legalized gambling. They should talk to James Bryan. The former Collingdale councilman yesterday pleaded guilty to stealing almost $3 million from the company he worked for to feed his gambling habit.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to Gov. Corbett. He’s right about the pension mess, and for holding the Legislature’s feet to the fire on the most important issue in the Commonwealth.

Quote Box: “Our goal is to come back bigger and stronger next year.”

- Boog Laird, longtime Champs ‘N’ Charity softball tournament director.

Score one for Gov. Corbett

Don't look now, but we believe Gov. Tom Corbett got one right.

The governor threw down a gauntlet last week when he signed the budget, but promptly cut out about $72 million in operating expenses and pet projects of the Legislature.

Yes, that would be the same two bodies that are controlled by his own Republican Party.

He was irked by members of the GOP ignoring his call for pension reform and heading home for the summer. He wants them to come back to Harrisburg and work on it. I hope he's not holding his breath.

In effect, Corbett is waging war on the GOP. Which might not be that bad an idea given his standing in the polls.

But the truth is the pension question is that important.

Here's our editorial on it, and the governor's testy relationship with the Legislature.

A Daily Times summer tradition takes a break

It started as "The Best by Test."

I've been at the Daily Times for 32 years, and for the last 30 of them we had our very own end-of-summer rite. We would gather the best men's and women's softball teams in Delaware County and hold a tournament to crown the champions.

At one point we called it the Tournament of Champions.

Most recently it has gone under the moniker of the Daily Times/Exelon Champs 'N' Charity Classic.

The emphasis there should be on charity.

After the first couple of years, charity really became the push behind the annual tournament. In that time, we have raised $700,000 for the American Cancer Society, in no small part in memory of one of our own, Phillies beat writer Bill Brown, who we lost to cancer.

All of this is my way of saying that this summer will be different, because there will not be a Champs 'N' Charity Classic. We're taking a year off.

Terry Toohey, one of the people closest to the tourney all these years, has all the details why. We want to make clear this is not the end of the road, just a slight detour. We are taking a year off, then we hope to be back bigger and better than ever next year.

One of the things that always concerns us as tourney time approaches each summer is the weather, and the fact that rain or storms can really wreak havoc with the schedule.

In fact, it sparked something of a legendary response here at the Daily Times whenever someone mentioned the possibility of rain.

"It never rains in the Hook."

Maybe it will this year. We won't be there, at least not physically.

But we'll be back. That's a promise.