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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom Wolf announces his Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act Monday in Monroeville. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)Gov. Tom Wolf announces his Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act Monday in Monroeville. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)

1) We're still not sure about the mechanics that could bring it to fruition, but Gov. Tom Wolf has made it clear that he's going to push hard for a severance tax on gas drilling in the state. In an appearance Monday in Monroeville, Governor Go Time said his proposed tax – which would be levied at 5.8 percent – is competitive with taxes in bordering states and would be lower than Ohio's proposed 6.5 percent tax.

2) A federal judge in Texas has issued an injunction that halts President Obama's executive order on immigration, just a day before the first provision of the order – the one that protects children who were brought to the country from deportation – was to take effect. The White House will appeal the decision, which sided with a lawsuit filed by more than half of the states in the country.

3) Recent statements by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul turned a public health question – immunization – into a political issue; a new website, released today by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, should bring us all back to the idea that maybe politics shouldn't play a role here. The site, an adaptation of the Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics -- or FRED -- simulates the spread of a measles outbreak in areas with a 95-percent immunization rate versus those with an 80-percent rate. Spoiler alert: an 80-percent immunization rate doesn't do much to stop an outbreak.

4) Actually, it's endorsement season, and the candidates for seats on the Pittsburgh Public Schools board are lined up to seek a nod from the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

5) There's no denying the lofty position of Pennsylvania in the history of the United States, but there's one area in which we don't fare so well. For all of our illustrious history, we've produced just one president – sorry, Rick Santorum – and a new survey of political scientists ranks him as the worst president ever. James Buchanan -- the pride of Cove Gap, Pa. -- waffled over the legalities of Southern secession and going to war to stop it; that indecision is cited in the survey as the biggest factor in the ranking.

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Former jury commissioner to seek higher office

Published by Janice Crompton on .

Former Washington County jury commissioner Judith Fisher will seek the Democratic nod for county commissioner, she recently announced.

Ms. Fisher, 75, of South Strabane, served as the Democratic jury commissioner for 20 years, until the position was eliminated in 2013.

In her announcement, Ms. Fisher said she would use revenue from the county's share of oil and gas drilling to fund an education initiative.  The internship would teach students the workings of county government.

Ms. Fisher also advocated establishing a scholarship fund for children in conjunction with the Washington County Community Foundation.

"Since the arrival of the gas and oil industry, the need has definitely arrived for us as a community to seriously consider offering our own children and residents a Washington County Community College, to further advance their training and education so that they can achieve promising careers right here at home," she said.  "I want to offer our residents a brighter tomorrow because our future depends on their success."

Ms. Fisher has served as a Democratic committee member for years and previously mounted an unsuccessful campaign for prothonotary in 2007.

Incumbent commissioners, including Democrats Larry Maggi and Harlan Shober, have announced their intention to run for re-election, along with a slate of other candidates.

 

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Rudiak to circulate petitions for controller's race

Published by Mike Pound on .

Natalia Rudiak (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)Natalia Rudiak (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)

By Chris Potter

Natalia Rudiak is gearing up for a potential challenge to City Controller Michael Lamb in the May 19 primary, political consultant Matt Merriman-Preston confirmed this morning.

"She'll be circulating petitions tomorrow," said Mr. Merriman-Preston. February 17 is the first day that candidates can do so.

Ms. Rudiak currently represents the South Hills neighborhoods of District 4. Rumors of her candidacy have been circulating for some time, though there has been little outward sign of a campaign bid. Mr. Lamb, for example, is the only candidate seeking the Democratic Party endorsement.

Mr. Merriman-Preston, who has worked with Ms. Rudiak since her initial successful 2009 run for council, said she made the decision to circulate petitions after the deadline for seeking the endorsement passed.

Ms. Rudiak was not immediately available for comment this morning. But today, for the first time, her office began circulating a copy of her daily schedule to reporters, much as Mayor Bill Peduto has been doing since taking office last year.

Mr. Peduto won that office in 2013, in a campaign where Mr. Lamb was a rival who later dropped out. The two men also ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2005, and Mr. Lamb, who was elected to his current post in 2007, has sometimes been critical of the administration.

Mr. Lamb said he wasn't surprised by the news. "I've been assuming all along I would have a challenger," he said. "We're ready to go."

Will the mayor be supporting Ms. Rudiak, a longtime ally, against his former foe?

Mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty deferred questions to Mr. Merriman-Preston. "I can't speak for the mayor," Mr. Merriman-Preston said. "But you could probably make an educated guess."

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Perry on Politics: Cynics should look no further than Simon and Carr

Published by Mike Pound on .

Bob Simon (Associated Press photo)Bob Simon (Associated Press photo)

By James M. Perry

For those cynics -- and they're out there, millions of them -- who question the decency, veracity, and commitment of newspapermen and TV reporters, the deaths of Bob Simon and David Carr should be enlightening.

I never met either of them but I have watched Mr. Simon on CBS for years and have read Mr. Carr's brilliant and often funny, media reports in the New York Times many times. Mr. Simon died in a car crash in New York Wednesday night, Mr. Carr dropped dead in the news room at the Times the following day. Mr. Simon was 73, Mr. Carr 58.

Their careers followed entirely different paths, but what they had in common was a love of what they did, telling stories, explaining events, capturing the elusive anecdote. They were great reporters.

Bob Simon was everything Brian Williams is not.

He didn't need to lie about his wartime experiences, for his experiences were real and long-standing. "Vietnam is where he first began covering warfare, and he gave his firsthand reporting from virtually every major battlefield around the world since," his colleague at CBS News, Scott Pelley, said the night he died.

He began reporting in Vietnam in 1971. He covered the final days of that tragic war and was aboard one of the last helicopters to leave the city before it fell to North Vietnamese troops in 1975. In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, he and his crew were captured by Iraqi forces and held for 40 days, during which they were beaten daily with canes and nearly starved by their captors. During one torture session, he said, an Iraqi captain forced his mouth open, spit in it, and called him a Jew (which he was, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University). He said after his release that those 40 days of torture were "the most searing experience of my life."

He won four Peabodys and 27 Emmys for his reporting, probably a record.

Mr. Simon's affinity for adventure never seemed to wane, the Washington Post said. At the age of 70, he took up riding a motorcycle again. In the summer of 2013, he rode from East Hampton to Maine, and back again -- all in one day.

His last report for "60 Minutes" will be broadcast Sunday. It was produced by his daughter, Tanya.

James Carr (Associated Press photo)David Carr (Associated Press photo)

David Carr never wrote about wars, but he did blaze a trail -- funny, serious, a little eccentric -- covering the media's digital revolution. He made me actually understand at least some of what was and is happening. "David's public contribution to the profession -- his columns and feature stories, his interviews and investigations -- is part of the record and part of the glory of this newspaper," his colleague, A.O. Scott, wrote.

"He managed to see the complexities of digital-age journalism from every angle, and to write about it with unparalleled clarity and wit. His prose was a marvel of wry Midwestern, sprinkled with phrases his colleagues will only ever think of as Carrisms. Someone (in Carr's world) was always competing to be the tallest leprechaun."

Mr. Carr's life story was compelling. When he was younger, he was addicted to cocaine. He broke the habit to become, Mr. Scott said, "the best we had and also the one who would go out into the world every week to make the case for what we do."

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

(Associated Press photo)

1) As far as we're concerned, Tom Wolf is going to keep the Governor Go Time nickname for a while, because of his willingness to move on campaign promises. Earlier this week it was rolling back the Medicare alternative enacted by former Gov. Tom Corbett; on Wednesday, it was an announcement of the keystone of his campaign: a 5 percent severance tax on oil and gas extraction in the state, the one that will raise money to restore cuts to education funding made by Mr. Corbett (or so Mr. Wolf maintains). Sure, proposing changes and getting them adopted are two very different things, especially with a Democratic governor and a Republican General Assembly, and that will be the true test of Mr. Wolf's mettle. But so far, we've been impressed with Governor Go Time's desire to push ahead.

2) There will almost certainly have to be some give and take if Mr. Wolf wants to get the severance tax adopted, and one potential Republican bargaining chip got new life this week. House Majority Leader Dave Reed said his chamber will re-introduce the liquor-and-wine-privatization bill with an eye towards passing it by the end of the month. This is the same bill that didn't make it through the Senate in 2013, and Democrats – including Governor Go Time – still are dead set against it. But privatization in exchange for a severance tax? We'll see.

3) The subpoenas sought by Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner – the ones targeting manager William McKain, police Superintendent Charles Moffatt and Jennifer Liptak, chief of staff for county Executive Rich Fitzgerald – were served yesterday. The county's legal team is reviewing the orders and, naturally, they'll comply if they find Wagner has the authority to call those folks on the carpet.

4) Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, made a whole bunch of people happy last week when he proposed stringent net neutrality rules – everyone, it seems except for Congressional Republicans. And those folks are already linking Mr. Wheeler's plans with President Obama – and comparing them to something that Vladimir Putin might have come up with.

5) Surprise! (not really)Philadelphia has been selected by the Democratic National Committee as the host of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

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