Friday, July 28, 2017

McGarrigle delivers on severance tax

Tom McGarrigle has been down this road before.

Just ask former Gov. Tom Corbett.

McGarrigle made it clear back when he was first running for the 26th District Senate seat held by Republican Ted Erickson that he supported a severance tax on the state's natural gas drillers.

That put him famously at odds with the man sitting at the top of the GOP ticket that year. That would be incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, who was running on "no new taxes campaign." The governor opted for an "impact fee" as opposed to a new tax.

McGarrigle is now serving in the Senate; Corbett is enjoying his retirement.

McGarrigle was joined by fellow Republican Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, in crafting the funding package that squeaked past the Senate in a 26-24 razor thin margin.

It includes the state's first severance tax on natural gas drilling.

It's still not what McGarrigle would like, but it's what he will have to settle for.

"I wanted 4 percent," McGarrigle told me shortly after the measure passed the Senate Thursday morning. "But there was no way we were going to get it."

What he got was 2 percent of the gross value of the natural gas at the wellhead. It's expected to raise $100 million. That's a lot less than what would have been raised under Gov. Tom Wolf's initial proposals in his first two years, 6.5 percent and then 5 percent the next year. Both proposals were dead on arrival in the GOP-dominated Legislature.

The package passed by the Senate will cost just about everyone, with hikes for gas heat as well as electric customers, cell and phone bills, and extending the sales tax to some online purchases.

The bulk of the money will come from borrowing as much as $!.3 billion from the tobacco settlement fund.

McGarrigle said he was "happy" because the plan is a start.

"When I sought this Senate seat, I pledged to make securing a severance tax on gas drilling a top priority," McGarrigle said. "It is a responsible way to generate desperately needde revenue for schools and other Commonwealth obligations."

Now it goes to the House.

But McGarrigle has held up his end of the deal.

Doing the math in Harrisburg

On today's editorial page, we discuss the fantasyland of Pennsylvania budget mathematics in Harrisburg.

Fantasyland collided with reality this week.

In other words, Republicans in the Senate - including Delco's own Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield, - realized the numbers simply were not going to add up.

That's what happens when you pass a $32 billion spending plan with only $30 billion in revenue.

The result? Everyone is likely to pay a little bit more. That includes the state's natural gas drillers, who now will pay a severance tax for the first time.


That's because the measure now goes to the House, where Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, has been adamantly opposed to any new tax hikes. Turzai has been toying with the idea of running for governor. Tax hikes won't make that chore any easier.

And every member of the House runs for office every two years.

The measure passed by a razor-thin 26-24 margin in the Senate.

Expect more of the same in the House.

You can read our editorial here.

Scaramucci goes off

Let me just say this:

I have been in my share of locker rooms - and newsrooms as well. I know how rough the language can get, although to be honest newsrooms aren't nearly what they once were.

Anthony Scaramucci could hold his own on any of them.

The Trump Administration's new communications boss did some X-rated communicating of his own, basically blowing a gasket in a profanity-laced tirade - on the record - with a reporter from The New Yorker against White House leaks, and in particular Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

If you haven't read it, you can see it here.

Caution, this one is for adults only.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everyone - including gas drillers - will pay more under Pa. Senate plan

Here's the bottom line on the ongoing budget battle in Harrisburg.

The numbers did not change, no matter how much cajoling and arm-twisting was done.

The Legislature passed a $32 billion spending plan, but only accounted for about $30 billion in revenue.

You do the math.

Pretty hard to make those numbers add up.

That finally appears to have sunk in with members of the state Senate. Today they are poised to approve a revenue package that will cost just about everyone a little more - and which will include a new severance tax on the state's natural gas drilling business. The push for new revenue - and the long-sought severance tax - was backed by moderate Republicans from southeastern Pa., including state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield.

Here's what the Senate wants to do to close the state spending gap:

* Slap a new tax of 2 cents per thousand cubic feet of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale regions. That would raise an estimated $100 million, less than what was proposed in the past by Gov. Tom Wolf, who first proposed a 6.5 percent levy, than a 5 percent levy in his first two budgets. Both plans failed.

* Of course the state also is going to borrow more money - this time as much as $1.3 billion.

* There will be a new tax on natural gas - on that will hit customers in the wallet - of 5.7 percent, or $5.70 on a bill of $100.

* Hike the tax on home electric bills from 5.9 percent to 6.5 percent.

* Increase the tax on home and cell phone bills from 5 percent to 6 percent.

* Extend the state's 6 percent sales tax to sales in online marketplaces run by third-party vendors.

* The state would take $200 million from the nonprofit Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association, an organization created by state law in 2002 to offer medical malpractice insurance. The association sued in federal court to block the state from borrowing that amount in the recently ended fiscal year.

Of course, the state also will look for a boost - in the neighborhood of $200 million - from increases in casino gaming.

While this plan is expected to gain approval in the Senate today, it faces a much sterner test in the House, where Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, has made clear he is opposed to any new taxes.

Turzai is believed to be considering a run for governor.

It will be interesting to see if he holds fast in opposing new taxes, in particular that long-sought new levy on natural gas drilling in the state.

You can get all the details on the new Senate revenue plan here.

In the meantime, we'll be talking to Sen. McGarrigle and other Delco senators to see where they stand.

A fitting legacy for Bianca

We used our editorial page today to ponder the question that remains unanswered weeks after Bianca Roberson was snatched away in a moment of madness.

Why? But more than that, we take time to note that she is being remembered.

The recent Rustin High School graduate who was about to embark on her college career at Jacksonville University in Florida, will be honored by the West Chester Area School District with a scholarship in her honor.

It will not provide an answer to why someone could possibly consider - even in a moment of anger - settling a traffic dispute with a gun. But it does honor Bianca's presence and is a fitting legacy.

You can read our editorial here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Setbacks in court for Mariner East 2

There is nothing quite like the smug, satisfying feeling of completing an editorial, sitting back and reviewing your work - only to have it all turned upside down.

That was the case yesterday when I penned still another editorial on the Mariner East 2 Pipeline project.

My original focus was on a ruling by an administrative law judge that went against Sunoco Pipeline in its dispute with West Goshen Township out in Chester County. The disagreement stems from the location of a valve station along the route. The township wants it on one side of the road, Sunoco on the other. And when Sunoco commenced to build it there, the township ran to the courts for relief.

And for one of the very few times, the courts ruled against Sunoco.

Not only that, but the judge halted construction in the township until the state Public Utility Commission can rule on the matter. The ink (OK, we don’t really use ink with these new-fangled computers these days) had barely dried on that piece when a new legal blockbuster was delivered - and it was more bad news for Sunoco and proponents of Mariner East 2.

The state Environmental Hearing Board took a look at some new documents detailing more than 60 incidents of spills connected to pipeline work in the state and ordered a halt to all drilling activities in the state.

Honey, get me rewrite!

I should make something clear here that likely was not in the initial reaction to the ruling. This pertains only to the horizontal directional drilling Sunoco is using in sensitive areas. Other routine pipeline work likely will continue.

But the real point of the editorial was to focus on something that largely was not realized by the public.

The key legal challenge in this fight was won by Sunoco back in 2014.

That is when the PUC granted their request to be considered a public utility. That gave the company a very wide berth in acquiring property under the argument that the pipeline project was a “public benefit.”

There are still legal challenges looming out there, including one to be argued in Philly courts that could halt the project altogether. But I would not put my money on them.

Money is one of the keys here. It talks. There is a lot of money - and jobs and economic benefits - tied to this project. Why do you think we have not heard a peep from Delaware County Council since problems started popping up tied to construction? If I were betting man, I would put the house on this project going forward.

Then again, I thought that before I had to rewrite today’s editorial.

You can read it here.

Remembering Bianca Roberson

In my Monday Letter From the Editor column, I talked about the lingering question that hangs over the road-rage case that snuffed out the life of a
promising young high school graduate from Chester County.

What could possibly make someone pull out a gun and shoot another person over a traffic incident? Is that the level we have now descended to as a society?

We still are looking for answers as David Desper, the Delaware County man who faces first-degree murder charges, is expected back in court later in August.

No one is awaiting answers more than the family of Bianca Roberson. She is the recent Rustin High School graduate who was headed to Jacksonville University in Florida in a few weeks to start her college career when she just happened to cross paths with pure evil in our society.

As much as we seek answers to the question of why in this horrific case, we also should not lose sight of what we lost. Roberson is being remembered with a scholarship at her school. You can get all the details here.

Bianca Roberson should be remembered for what she was, a bright, vibrant young person with everything going for them and their entire life in front of them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The case for clearing the name of Alexander McClay Williams

The fight for justice for Alexander McClay Williams is not over - not by a long shot.

A few months ago, a Delaware County judge expunged the record of Williams, who was convicted in the murder of a matron at Glen Mills Schools more than eight decades ago. In the matter of about a year, Williams was arrested, tried, convicted and executed, thus becoming an infamous note in Pennsylvania history - the youngest Keystone State resident ever executed.

That rush to judgment becomes more shameful the more you learn about the case.

Longtime Delco educator Sam Lemon has produced a book on the case, and teamed with local attorney Robert Keller to make the case for clearing McClay Williams' name.

On our editorial page, we make the case for clearing the record of Alexander McClay Williams.

You can read it here.

Judge temporarily halts Mariner East 2 work in Chesco

There has been a huge development in the Battle of Mariner East 2 - and it went against Sunoco.

An administrative law judge ruled in favor of West Goshen in their dispute with Sunoco Pipeline over the location of a valve station along the pipeline. The township claimed a switch in the location by Sunoco constituted a violation of their deal.
Sunoco said the move was made for safety.

The ruling means all work on the pipeline in West Goshen must be halted until the state Public Utility Commission can rule on the project.

Sunoco says it is ready to make its case before the PUC.

"We look forward to demonstrating to the Public Utility Commission how we have complied at all times with our agreement with West Goshen Township," said Jeff Shields, spokesman for Sunoco Pipeline LP.

There also were a couple of other developments yesterday in the increasingly controversial Mariner East 2 project, which will construct a 350-mile span, including two pipelines, that will ferry more than 350,000 barrels a day of Marcellus Shale products such as butane, ethane and propane the entire width of Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook.

Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone yesterday joined the call of elected officials asking for a halt to construction of hte pipeline.

And last night a big crowed showed up at the Middletown Council meeting to offer their concerns about the pipeline after an incident last week in which 1,500 gallons of bentonite, a non-toxic, clay-like substance used in the drilling process, leaked into a tributary of Chester Creek.

Look for a full report on that meeting later today.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A violent weekend in Chester

It was another rough weekend in the city of Chester.

In a span of about 24 hours, starting Friday night, two men were fatally shot, and an 11-year-old boy sitting inside his house was hit by a stray bullet.

Luckily, his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Police have made an arrest in one of the fatal shootings, which police now believe stemmed from an argument.

The two shootings mark the 19th and 20th homicides in the city in 2017.

Delaware County has recorded 21 in total. The only other homicide took place in Darby Borough. You can get all the details here.

When a national story erupts in your back yard

Every time a huge story breaks out across the region or even nationally, I always caution our staff to watch it closely for any possible links to Delaware County.

You'd be amazed at how often that happens.

So it was a few weeks ago when we were closely following the senseless case of a road-rage shooting nearby in Chester County that snuffed out the life of a promising recent high school graduate.

I could not get my hands around why someone would actually pull out a gun and shoot another driver in traffic. Is that what we have become?

But I have to admit something else was gnawing at me as well. I kept wondering what the chances were that this guy suspected in the shooting - and his now infamous red pickup truck - were from Delaware County?

It didn't take long to find out.

I write about it in this week's Letter From the Editor.

Phillies' timing just right - for start of football season

You have to love the Phillies' sense of timing.

Yesterday, led again by budding star Nick Williams, they broke out the bats again and hammered the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-3. The win gives the Phils back-to-back series wins for the first time since April.

Just in time for the end of the baseball season.

That's right.

The Eagles start training camp today when quarterbacks, rookies and selected vets report to the Nova Care Center in South Philly.

Maybe Matt Klentak can surface and actually pull a little magic out of his hat as the trade deadline approaches at the end of the week.

He's got plenty of pieces ready to move, including reliever Pat Neshek, who pitched another perfect inning in relief of a solid Jerad Eickhoff. Howie Kendrick had a couple more hits. Jeremy Hellickson no doubt will not be a Phillie by the end of the week. Maybe the biggest intrigue surrounds first baseman Tommy Joseph, who needs to be moved to make room for minor league stud Rhys Hoskins.

In the meantime, the region will flip the switch and become all-Eagles, all the time.

In the meantime, Jack McCaffery says Doug Pederson has the right idea by thinking big.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Aqua still interested in Chester Water Authority

Remember a couple of months ago when behemoth local water company Aqua America sets its sights on the Chester Water Authority.

At that time the Chester Water Authority board rejected the offer.

But the popular thought was that they would not be going away.

They were right.

Aqua continues to be interested in the firm, but so far Chester Water Authority continues to resist.

You can read the latest here.

I have a person stake in this story. Sort of.

Take a close look at the bottled water on the tables during yesterday's meeting of the Chester Water Authority Board at Neumann University.

Yes, that sparkling water is the pride of the Octoraro Reservoir. I am guessing most people in Delaware County don't know that. They don't realize that when they turn on their spigots that beautiful water that flows out comes from right outside my home town of Oxford, Pa. I've done a lot of things in that water, including being chased out of it on any number of occasions.

Come to think of it, today would be a great day to cool off while fishing and swimming in the water I spent a lot of time in back in my youth.

I feel a sick day coming on.

One more salute to Officer Chris Dorman

Folcroft Officer Chris Dorman was back in uniform yesterday.

But he wasn't on patrol.

He was in a Delaware County courtroom to see justice delivered to the man who shot him in the face.

He wasn't alone.

We talk about Dorman on our editorial page.

And if you're interested in the sentence meted out to the man who shot him seven times and then fired at other officers, you can find that here.

It's Fry-Day!

Welcome to Fry-Day!

I can remember actually using that headline on the front page of the paper back in the day.

One thing you can usually count on when we get into one of these kinds of heat waves.

You know it's going to end with a bang.

We're almost at 80 already before 6 a.m., and later today we'll be back in the broiler with a high 95.

We are under an excessive heat warning from the National Weather Service until 8 p.m.

The actual real-feel temperature this after will soar well over 100 degrees.

You have to think that at some point we are going to get hit with some nasty thunderstorms to break up all this heat. But right now it looks like we'll stay in the soup through the weekend.

You can get the full forecast here.

Me? I'll be smiling. I love this weather.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

More voices calling for halt to pipeline work

The voices calling for a halt to construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline are growing.

First it was Chester County Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, who spoke up after drilling disturbed several residents' wells in Chester County.

Then there were two more incidents in Delaware County, tied to a leak of 1,500 gallons of bentonite into a tributary of Chester Creek.

That was enough for Republican state Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168.

Now he's being joined by a voice from across the aisle. State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, of Swarthmore Wednesday called for a moratorium on construction.

They're not alone. Several environmental groups, including the Clean Air Council, Mountain Watershed Association Inc. and Delaware Riverkeeper Network all have done likewise.

You can get the latest update here.

Meanwhile, on our editorial page today, we note that it is now up to Sunoco to take action to ease the growing concerns in the community. If they don't it might be time for legislators to force their hand.

Chris Dorman will see justice delivered today

Chris Dorman is getting what he wants.

No, he had no interest in coming face-to-face with evil - and a gun - when he was shot during a call last summer in Folcroft.

But today he will be there when justice is delivered to the man who shot him.

Dorman will not deliver his victim impact statement himself. He will write out his thoughts and allow Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge Gregory Mallon deliver his remarks.

Dorman will be accompanied by a throng of Delaware County law enforcement as Island is sentenced.

We'll be there to deliver all the details.

For now, you can read about Dorman's thoughts on the past year in our Cop Shop column.

Yep, that's me with the windows down

I'm getting use to the odd stares on the ride home.

No, my car air-conditioner is not on the fritz.

I have the windows down on purpose.

You see, I like this weather.

The more people I tell this to, the more weird looks I get.

Now I'm beginning to wonder why.

Is it because I'm thin (although my gut is decidedly bigger than it used to be) and am almost always cold?

One thing I know is that for the most part I do not care for air-conditioning.

Yes, I don't mind it in the office, so long as my fingers don't turn into popsicles, which they almost always do all summer. You can find me taking a casual stroll around our new neighborhood here on South Chester Road most days trying to thaw out.

Here's a tip: Want to cool off today? You don't need to go to the local swimming pool.

Go grocery shopping.

Every week I forget that Wegmans has to be the coldest place on earth. Many parts of the store are just plain freezing.

That said, I realize this is a decidedly minority opinion. We're under an excessive heat warning until 8 p.m. Friday. Today's high is expected to push north of 95, with a heat index (can anyone tell me what the hell that is?) somewhere around 105.

Here's the full forecast.

I'll be the guy smiling on the ride home - with the windows down.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More problems with Mariner East 2 construction

The biggest economic project in the region is making headlines again - but probably not the kind its proponents want to see.

There were two more incidents involving the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Middletown this week - one on Monday and another related to it Tuesday.

First, about 1,500 gallons of bentonite, a non-toxic, clay-like muddy substance used in the drilling process, leaked into a tributary of Chester Creek.

Then on Tuesday, runoff from groundwater at the site overflowed a retention pond, flowing onto hay bales set up in the area. A video of the runoff was widely circulated on social media.

It's not the first time a bentonite spill has become an issue. Back in May a similar leak occurred in Brookhaven.

And of course the project has been halted in Chester County after problems popped up with several residents' wells.

Now a group of community activists and even a state representative is asking for construction to be halted here in Delaware County.

Look, drilling for pipeline construction is not a pretty business. Anybody who has seen what is going on along Route 452 here in Delaware County, or out on Boot Road in Chester County, can attest to that.

But is there any danger in these spills?

Sunoco insists that's not the case, stressing that bentonite is commonly used during drilling operations, and that it is non-toxic. Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said the company has had no reports of any impact on private wells or the public water supply here in Delaware County.

That has not stopped state Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168, of Edgmont, who represents the area where the spill occurred, to call for a halt to pipeline construction.

Quinn said he wants to be sure all the proper safeguards are in place to protect the environment and local residents. "What is occurring here is unacceptable," Quinn said in a statement.

That follows word from state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, that he was sending a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection asking that all horizontal directional drilling be halted in Chester County after the problems with residents' private wells popped up.

Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, one of the groups who have been most vocal in their opposition to the pipeline, is seeking a moratorium on pipeline construction.

They also want their Middletown Township Council to get involved, asking them to back the moratorium call and set up a meeting between residents and Sunoco.

Council meets Monday night.

Should be interesting.

The last stand in Upper Chi

There are a couple of things that simply scream, "Delco."

The old Bazaar of All Nations in Clifton Heights was one.

Surely John's Doggie Shop is another.

But not for long.

Yes, sadly, Delaware County is losing another icon.

This staple of Delco's diet, with its roots in its original location in Chester, will close the doors on the Eleutheriou family enterprise for the last time at the end of the month.

We offer our own salute to a Delco icon on today's editorial page.

More bad news for Harrah's in Chester

While our state legislators continue to spin their wheels trying to figure out how they are actually going to pay for the $32 billion budget that just became law, here's one to keep an eye on - with some fairly ominous possibilities for Delaware County.

One of the solutions being bandied about in Harrisburg - as it seemingly always is - is a major expansion in legalized gambling in the state. Among the venues being considered is online and sports fantasy gambling, as well as putting video gaming terminals in local taverns.

As you might expect, the state's casinos are not big fans of this idea.

That includes Harrah's down on the Chester waterfront.

And for good reason.

Harrah's continues to struggle. While total revenue from gaming in the state continues to rise, it's actually down at Harrah's. Table games revenue was up 3.25 percent for the 12 months ending June 30, but at Harrah's table games play was down, from $67.8 million for 2015-16 to $65.6 million this past 12 months.

Slots revenue was down - both statewide and also at Harrah's, off 2.2 percent statewide, while Harrah's take dipped from $215.1 million to $200.4 million.

So you can imagine the folks at Harrah's are not exactly doing cartwheels about the possibility of putting all those competing video gaming terminals at local bars and taverns, patrons who might otherwise be coming through the doors at Harrah's.

And that says nothing of one of the biggest competitors that looms in Harrah's future. If they ever get that casino up and running at the South Philly sports complex, that also will cut into Harrah's business, effectively providing another outlet just 15 minutes up I-95.

Both Harrah's and county officials lobbied hard against granting that license for the South Philly site.

Harrah's produces a huge chunk of revenue for the county and basically is the lifeblood of the Chester city budget, all part of the host agreement put in place when the state ushered in this new era of casinos and legal gaming.

Give credit to Harrah's, when the state Supreme Court knocked down those host agreements as being unconstitutional, they continue their payments to both the county and city.

It might be time for our politicos to return the favor.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Another bentonite spill along pipeline

Expect some more news about the Mariner East 2 pipeline today.

Middletown Supervisor Mark Kirchgasser late Monday afternoon indicated the township has been informed of another bentonite spill amid pipeline construction.

It would be the second such spill during construction in Delaware County. Last month Sunoco Logistics acknowledged a spill of the clay-like substance that is used as part of the drilling process in Brookhaven. It is not believed to be a danger to the local water table. The township is aware of the situation and the state Department of Environmental Protection has been notified and is responding to the spill site, behind the Turnbridge Center.

In his Facebook post to the Middletown Township Community page, Kirchgasser indicated the spill reached Chester Creek. But small amounts of bentonite clay, which is commonly used in these types of drilling operations, is not believed to be a danger. In the meantime, we talked to some local legislators about the growing local concerns about the pipeline. You can read that story here. Lawmakers are talking about beefing up protections for home owners in the wake of problems with water wells tied to the drilling work out in Chester County. And West Goshen today is expected to be back in front of the PUC to make their case in a dispute with Sunoco about the location of a valve station in Chester County.

Speaking of West Goshen, there is a meeting there Wednesday night that is expected to draw a big public showing.

The last stand in Upper Chi

Every time I write a headline that includes a reference to the "Killer Conchester" - the less than affable monicker slapped on Route 322 - I am chided that the Conchester doesn't kill anyone - drivers do.

Well the Conchester has now claimed another victim - but this one does not involve a traffic accident.

They are in the process of a massive project to expand and widen Route 322, something that has been on the books for decades. But the work will claim a Delco icon, something that has been part of the local scene for almost as long.

Among the properties being claimed for the project is the last location of John's Doggie Shop.

Forget Jerry Blavat. People in Delaware County know that the real "Boss with the Sauce" has been the Eleutheriou family and their classic hot dog stands.

The stand started in Chester on East Seventh Street and eventually grew to five spots, including Wilmington, Del., and Wildwood Crest. The Chester anchor store closed its doors in 2013. Now the "last stand," the location on Conchester Highway in Upper Chi, also will close its doors forever, at the end of the month.

CLICK HERE for a great look at a true Delco icon.

Trying to explain the unexplainable

For the second time in a matter of weeks, southeastern Pennsylvania - specifically the Philadelphia suburbs - has found itself in the national headlines, and not for a reason anyone would want.

For the second time, we look for an explanation of what is unexplainable.

We can't imagine the horror of taking another life over something as mundane as a traffic dispute.

We reel at the thought of four young men lured to their deaths over little more than money and drugs.

We join with the families of Bianca Roberson and those four young men in Bucks County in asking a simple question: Why?

There have now been arrests in both cases.

Getting answers, and making sense of either case, likely will take a little longer.

You can read our editorial on these two troubling cases here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A wedding & nonstop flow of news in the pipeline

One thing I've learned about the way this job has changed over the past few years is this: There is no escaping the news.

It follows you everywhere - including 250 miles out the Pa. Turnpike.

What I didn't expect to see was a big reminder of the biggest story in Delaware County staring at me in the middle of nowhere.

Yes, Delaware and Chester counties are not the only ones dealing with the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

And not even my son's wedding could stop the news from flowing into my life.

It's in my weekly Letter From the Editor.


Anyone else notice this today?

The date is the same frontwards and backwards.


I have no idea what that means, but if I start to here that 'Twilight Zone' music, I'm getting out of here.

I'm assuming that will not happen again until 8-18-18. Yeah, I'm a math wizard.

Same old, same old in Pa.

Don't look now but we just raced past the mid-point in July.

Unless, of course, you're in Harrisburg. In that case, you remain stuck in the usual summer budget follies.

Our elected representatives actually did manage to fulfill their constitutional duty to have a spending plan in place by the deadline of July 1. They just don't have a way to pay for it.

They're about $2 billion short of what they need.

An increasing number of people - including the Delaware County Republican delegation - is again thinking that maybe we should be slapping a severance tax on the state's natural gas drillers.

So far Republican leadership continues to resist anything that smacks of a new tax. They prefer instead to look at increased gambling and the possibility of selling off the state stores.

So halfman through the month, here we sit.

It's July 17. Do you know where your revenue package is? If you were elected to the state Legislature, that would be a resounding no.

You can read our Sunday editorial on Pa.'s budget follies here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Big win for Mariner East 2 foes in Chesco

There was a major development last night in the raging battle over Sunoco Logistics massive Mariner East 2 pipeline plans.

At a meeting with residents in West Whiteland Township, in Chester County, where several families' water wells have been affected by drilling, a company spokesman told residents they would halt drilling operations.

Jeff Shields, spokesperson for Sunoco Logistics, said the horizontal drilling that is believed to have disturbed the aquifer and wells well below the surface, will be halted until further notice.

Community opposition to the massive pipeline plan, which will traverse 23 miles in Chester County and another 11.4 miles in Delaware County as it carries natural gas liquids such as ethane, butane and propane to Marcus Hook, has been steadily growing in recent months.

Eventually, Sunoco Logistics wants to deliver 350,000 barrels of the natural gases a day across the 350-mile pipeline that will span nearly the entire width of Pennsylvania.

You can get all the details from last night's meeting here.

Going after the heroin dealers

Yesterday we told you about plans here in Delaware County to turn up the heat on heroin dealers.

Today we have the details.

State Rep. Jamie Santora, R-163, was accompanied by District Attorney Jack Whelan and a phalanx of Delco police chiefs as he announced legislation that would call for mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted in heroin sales.

Santora, as well as Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood, should know. Upper Darby has been ravaged by the heroin epidemic. And Chitwood has made it clear he believes the courts have to take a tougher stance on those peddling the heroin.

As usual, Chitwood was not at a loss for words.

You can get all the details here.

A little lesson in democracy in Springfield

Something very special - and rare - happened recently in Springfield.

We wish it was something that happened more often in Washington, D.C., and Harrisburg.

Elected representatives actually listened carefully to residents' concerns, and then took action.

What was in question here in Springfield was a request for a zoning change for a local car dealership that was looking to renovate and expand its operation. The problem is that part of the lot in question abuts a residential neighborhood just off Baltimore Pike. Residents already were unhappy with operations there and made their feelings known to the township commissioners.

That didn't seem to make much difference, as the zoning change passed on its first reading.

But residents continued to make their points known, and were back this week to pack a meeting, again voicing their opposition. That's when something magical happened.

Commissioners changed their tune, respected their residents' desires, and voted against the zoning change.

The voted included two board members who actually changed their vote this time around from the initial vote.

You can read our editorial here.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Targeting dealers in war on heroin

The war on heroin is going to get cranked up a few notches today.

And this time the target is those who are peddling this poison - and fueling the epidemic that is causing so much heartache across Delaware County, the region and nation.

State Rep. Jamie Santora, R-163, of Upper Darby today will roll out legislation that provides a minimum sentence for heroin dealers.

It's not a surprise that this is on Santora's radar. Upper Darby has been hard hit by the heroin scourge. At one point recently police responded to six overdoses in a 24-hour period.

Santora will be flanked today a a group of lawman, including Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan, and police chiefs from across the county.

We'll be there to cover it.

The two words that hang over the pipeline issue

On our editorial page today, we talk about - what else - what is clearly the biggest economic story in the region.

And specifically the two words that seem to hang over this plan to push hundreds of thousands of barrels of natural gas byproducts such as ethane, butane and propane across the width of Pennsylvania - including some densely populated areas of Chester and Delaware counties.

The two words that simply won't go away are these:

What if?

There is no good answer to that question, and what happened during construction recently out in Chester County didn't help. Water wells of several residents in West Whiteland were disrupted by the digging that is a key part of the construction of the pipeline.

Sunoco Logistics is now moving to remedy the situation, saying the company will pick up the tab for hooking up those homes to public water systems. But it doesn't help bolster confidence, nor ease the worries of those who insist that putting the pipeline in such heavily populated areas - including near schools - is not a good idea. You can read our editorial here.


You'll have to indulge me.

I'm weird.

Don't believe me? Ask my wife.

No, it's not what you're thinking.

It's this weather.

I love it.

Yes, you heard that right.

This morning when I opened the front door, it was all I could do to resist a luxurious - Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

For a lot of people, that thick, moist air is a slap in the face. For me, it's a love tap.

Bring it on - the hotter, the more humid, the better.

Yes, this is summer.

Toss on a pair of old shorts and T-shirt, and you're ready to take on the day.

Only a couple of things could have made this better.

I could have been standing on the first tee of a golf course, hitting my first drive just as the sun came up over the horizon, an empty course awaiting me.

Or I could have been on the boardwalk in Rehoboth, watching as the sun began its slow, languorous ascension out of the ocean. Unfortunately, all I was doing was heading for my car for the ride to work.

Yes, that was me you saw driving with the windows down.

It gets worse. I'll be doing the same tonight on the ride home.

Itching for the moment I can ditch this shirt and tie, toss on my T-shirt, and head for the deck, watching the same sun descend behind the trees in the back yard.

Welcome, summer!

Life is good.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Road rage hearing postponed


That one simple question is the one that has been swirling around in my head since I first heard of the horrific tragedy that snuffed out the life of a young woman from Chester County in a road-rage incident.

What could possibly make someone do something so abhorrent, so senseless, as to pull out a gun and shoot another driver?

We still don't know. A preliminary hearing for the man charged in this brutal killing was continued yesterday.

In the meantime, the friends and family of Bianca Roberson continue to mourn the senseless loss of a promising young life.

Roberson, a recent graduate of Rustin High School in West Chester, was headed to Jacksonville University in Florida in just a few weeks to start college.

She was apparently jockeying for position with another driver on a portion of Route 100 in West Goshen where the road goes from one lane down to one. Both drivers were involved in what police describe as a "cat and mouse" game.

Then the unthinkable happened. The other driver pulled out a gun and shot Bianca in the head, killing her instantly.

The story not only captured national attention, it also became a much more intense story for us here at the Daily Times when we learned the man charged in her shooting death was from Delaware County.

David Desper, of Trainer, now faces charges of first- and third-degree murder.

As we always do in such stories, we tried to find out what we could about Desper.

We didn't learn much. Not many people were talking about him.

We did not do this in an attempt to paint him in any kind of less harsh light. What he is charged with doing is abhorrent.

We ran a photo of him from his high school yearbook that also offended some readers. That also is something we often do as we dig into the background of people charged with serious crimes.

We are not looking for - or offering - any excuse for what he is charged with doing.

We don't want to see him acquitted - as some have charged.

We want only justice for Bianca Roberson, and an explanation as to how a person could possibly be capable of doing something so heinous.

Bianca's father, Rodney Roberson, has stated that the family intends to attend the preliminary hearing and has said he wants to ask him a simple question: "What gave you the right? What made you think it was all right to take my daughter."

I don't blame him a bit.

Silence from White House is deafening

I said it before and I will say it again about the Trumps.

They don't know what they don't know.

They promised to drain the swamp, to take back Washington, wresting it from the grip of the politicians and returning it to the people.

Their die-hards - those 35 percent who remain in The Donald's camp - remain by his side, lashing out at the media for the "Fake News" that they insist swirl around their leader.

But something is different with the latest Trump bombshell, the one detailing how Trump's son met with a Russian official in the hopes of getting some dirt on Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

The silence is deafening.

There have been no 4 a.m. Tweets from the commander-in-chief slamming the media for this latest story.

The only comment coming from the White House was a terse statement from White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, stating that the president believes his son is a "high-quality person" and lauding him for his transparency in this latest debacle.

Other than that, however, nothing. Crickets.

This is a new tactic for President Trump, and one that apparently has him chafing at the bit.

Read this Associated Press story to see how Trump is privately seething over all this.

A while back, I had come to the conclusion that Trump simply did not know what he doesn't know. He didn't know the workings of government, and didn't seem especially interested in learning them. He appeared to be ready to run the country the way he always ran his business, as an autocrat whose words was final.

He's beginning to learn - slowly - that's now how things work in Washington.

Then I actually believed he was simply using the media and the Russia question to take the heat off the fact that a Republican president with a Republican Senate and Republican House has been unable to get much of anything done.


Well, let's just say the silence is deafening.

The Dead Zone in Philly sports

We are in the Dead Zone in Philly sports.

Remember when the baseball All-Star Game was a big deal. I had to remind myself the Mid-Summer Classic was actually being played last night.

Does that have something to do with the Phillies holding the worst record in Major League Baseball? Sure, and unless you get a big kick out of seeing someone named Pat Neshek pitch a scoreless second inning, there wasn't much to cheer about, regardless if you are a Phillies fan or not.

The American League eventually won 2-1 on a walk-off homer by Robinson Cano in the 10th inning.

Count on Neshek to be one of the prized items the Phillies dangle out there as the trade deadline approaches.

That is what stands for excitement these days in Philly sports.

The Sixers continue their Summer League program, albeit without Markelle Fultz, who is this year's requisite Sixers Summer League casualty.

The Eagles wide receivers are in North Dakota practicing with Carson Wentz.

Training camp can't get here soon enough.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A growing concern about social media

I guess I picked the wrong week to complain about social media.

This after I spent the majority of my weekend on Facebook and Twitter updating the manhunt for the now infamous red pickup truck involved in the senseless road rage shooting death of a Chester County teen.

Even the Chester County D.A. and West Goshen chief took the time to thank the media for their efforts in pushing every update in this story, chiefly the surveillance photos of the truck, and the police sketch of the suspected gunman, even if the man eventually charged in the case does not look all that much like the sketch.

West Goshen Police Chief Joseph Gleason called the social media push "relentless," spreading each update like "wildfire." Then there is President Trump. If you have not heard, he was back on Twitter again this weekend, posting a mock video that showed him beating up a CNN figure in something he dredged up from his old professional wrestling days.

Yeah, that's presidential.

I'll be the first to note that social media has fundamentally changed the way I go about my job. Speed is important. Don't let anyone tell you different. It's important that we deliver information as fast as we can.

That is why I seemingly spent the entire weekend on Twitter, posting updates on the road-rage shooting.

It simply is now essential to any news organization's role in delivering breaking news.

That does not mean I am not becoming increasingly concerned - and more than a little disenchanted - with a lot of what I am seeing on social media.

I talk about that - where else - in print in today's weekly Letter From the Editor column.

The Mariner East 2 Debate

The Mariner East 2 debate isn't going away anytime soon.

In fact, it likely is getting a little bit louder.

After having seen what some of their neighbors are experiencing, more Chester County residents are raising their voices against the massive pipeline plan already under construction by Sunoco Logistics.

Evidence of the pipeline's arrival also is showing up along Route 452 (Pennell Road) here in Delaware County.

The Middletown Coalition for Community Safety was on hand to talk about the pipeline with more than 350 people who showed up at a meeting in Chester County.

We talk about this massive economic project - and the clear concerns it has sparked in the community - on our editorial page.

Read it here.