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Poll: Pennsylvania loves Punxsutawney Phil

Published by Mike Pound on .

Punxsutawney Phil in 2008. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)Punxsutawney Phil in 2008. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

In the heat of last year's gubernatorial race, we developed a real fondness for a good polling post. And, frankly, we've missed those looks at polling figures.

But thanks to our friends at Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, N.C., we have a chance to write about a poll that's both timely and significant.

It's about Punxsutawney Phil.

In less than 24 hours from now, members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club will haul Phil out of his stump, so the planet's most famous Marmota monax can tell us what's up with the remaining six weeks of winter.

The part that involves polls? We love the little guy, even if we don't trust his weather forecasting abilities. PPP spoke to just over 1,000 voters in Pennsylvania, presumably to ask questions that have nothing at all to do with voting. The results, as they pertain to Groundhog Day?

Fifty-nine percent of us have a favorable opinion of Phil, while 12 percent of us – professional meteorologists bitter about the attention paid to a rodent, we assume – have a negative opinion. But relax, weather-forecasting people – just 8 percent of those surveyed said the whole seeing-his-shadow thing is a reliable predictor of the weather.

Who should be concerned? Here's where we justify an Early Returns blog post about Punxsutawney Phil – a full 50 percent of those polled said they thought Phil would do a better job than most current members of Congress.

Ouch. Mitt Romney avoided inserting himself in a political version of Groundhog Day last week; maybe it's time to see how a real rodent would fare on the ballot?

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BREAKING: McCord admits to strong-arming donors, resigns immediately

Published by Mike Pound on .

Now we know.

State Treasurer Rob McCord will plead guilty to federal charges related to strong-arming potential campaign donors and resign his post effective immediately, according to a video statement the Philadelphia resident released today.

A statement from Mr. McCord's attorneys, at Welsh & Recker in Philadelphia, elaborates:

Mr. McCord will be pleading guilty to certain federal charges to be filed arising out of his attempts in the spring of 2014 to raise campaign contributions from two potential contributors by communicating that if they failed to make campaign contributions, he could make it difficult for them to do business with the Commonwealth.

There is no suggestion that Treasurer McCord stole or misused campaign funds.

Immediately upon being contacted by federal agents about these matters, Mr. McCord acknowledged that he had overstepped the line of legitimate political fundraising.

Keep checking back at post-gazette.com for updates.

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Romney won't reprise presidential run in 2016

Published by Mike Pound on .

Mitt Romney (Associated Press photo)Mitt Romney (Associated Press photo)

Your move, Jeb Bush.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

State Treasurer Rob McCord speaks at a campaign event in Pittsburgh in 2014. (Connor Mulvaney/Post-Gazette)State Treasurer Rob McCord speaks at a campaign event in Pittsburgh in 2014. (Connor Mulvaney/Post-Gazette)

1) The initial reports Thursday morning – that state Treasurer Rob McCord would step down from his post in early February before completing his final term -- were puzzling. Mr. McCord's resignation letter didn't offer much in the way of explanation, only that with Tom Wolf now comfortably seated in the governor's office, "it is time" to Mr. McCord to return to the public sector. As it turned out, though, Mr. McCord's resignation wasn't the stunner; that came Thursday afternoon, when word began to circulate that Mr. McCord was the subject of a federal investigation of fundraising for his failed gubernatorial campaign. A spokesman for Mr. McCord refused to comment on the reports of the investigation.

2) There won't be any new drilling in Pennsylvania's state parks and forests after this week – Mr. Wolf made good on a campaign promise to put in place a moratorium on new leases on those public lands. Ed Rendell had a similar ban when he served a governor, but Tom Corbett's administration approved drilling in public lands as long as the wells were drilled from adjacent properties.

3) Mr. Wolf took another step on Thursday to separate himself from that other Tom – his office announced that his work schedule would be posted publicly starting next week. That's a far cry from the policy of Mr. Corbett, who gave up his schedule only after a state court ordered him to do so. Anyone up for a Where's Tom widget?

4) The U.S. Senate approved the Keystone XL Pipeline on Thursday, setting up a battle with the White House, which has maintained that President Obama would veto anything having to do with the continental pipeline before a review by the State Department is completed.

er pens

5) And that brings us to this – the Veto Pen that Mr. Obama has been mentioning more and more often these days. The folks on NPR's "Morning Edition" told us today that the president has used a veto just twice so far, but we'd guess that number is going to spike dramatically in the next two years. And while it's customary for a president to use several pens to sign bills into law – those pens then get handed out as souvenirs – we think something comfortable and inexpensive would be better suited for all the vetoing that's about to happen.

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Protect Our Parks group 1st to get citizen-sponsored ordinance to Allegheny County Council

Published by Mike Pound on .

Members of Protect Our Parks presents Allegheny County Council with a petition to stop drilling in Deer Lakes Park last summer. The group is the first to get county council to consider citizen-sponsored legislation. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)Members of Protect Our Parks presents Allegheny County Council with a petition to stop drilling in Deer Lakes Park last summer. The group is the first to get county council to consider citizen-sponsored legislation. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

By Molly Born

While news that Chelsa Wagner might take four county-appointed authorities to court dominated Grant Street this week, a group of Allegheny County residents got one step closer to making history.

At county council's Dec. 2 meeting, members of the Protect Our Parks coalition presented the more than 1,800 signatures they'd collected in support of a two-year ban on drilling at all non-Deer Lakes Park facilities -- the first citizen-sponsored ordinance to be considered by the panel. And on Wednesday, council's government reform committee gave the proposal a neutral recommendation, moving it to council for a vote.

Committee members commended the organization.

"Congratulations on being the first group to get the signatures," Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, told two Protect Our Parks members.

"I'm glad we have this provision in the charter that we can have this kind of ordinance brought before us. I don't care if they come up with one that says, 'Paint the Gold Room red, white and blue.' If the citizens think that's an important issue, I think we have to listen to that," said Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square.

While also tipping his hat to the group's efforts, Nicholas Futules, D-Oakmont, expressed concern about a moratorium.

"I would vote against this because I want to have that right and opportunity to weight each individual opportunity as they arrive," he said.

And a quick recap on where we are with Deer Lakes: In May, council voted 9-5 to allow non-surface natural gas drilling beneath the 1,180-acre, county-owned park, leasing the county's oil and gas rights to driller Range Resources. The lease will yield $4.7 million to the county, $3 million to a parks improvement fund and 18 percent in royalties that have been estimated at more than $50 million.

Drilling hasn't hasn't started yet, councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, noted at the meeting. Executive Rich Fitzgerald has said he has no plans to begin drilling under other county parks.

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