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"30 Rock" star joins schools lobbying effort

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Former Philly suburbs resident Tina Fey is lobbying friends and school supporters to urge Gov. Tom Corbett to increase public schools funding, sending them the video above. From the WashPost:

. . . [W]hen the three-time Emmy Award-winner heard that her old school district had proposed eliminating specialized elementary school classes in arts and music (along with library and gym) to help deal with a multimillion-dollar deficit, she decided to join the fight against the changes.

The Upper Darby district is on the border of West Philadelphia, and with 12,000 students, it is one of the largest in the state. Along with cuts in elementary education, the Delaware County Daily Times reported that officials had also proposed cutting out foreign language and technology in middle schools and reducing the teaching staff.

The proposals met with strong opposition from parents, students, alumni and others in the district, who are organizing against the cuts.

Fey, creator and star of “30 Rock,” heard that her old high school friend, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Maria Panaritis (who played Rizzo in that “Grease” production [with Fey]), was working on a piece about the budget cuts and offered to get involved.

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Obama operative: Pa voters racist, but would rather drink with Obama than Romney

Published by Peter Sullivan on .

The saga of politicos insinuating Pennsylvania voters are racist continued Sunday with comments from an unidentified Obama operative.

The operative was quoted in John Heilemann's new exploration of Obama campaign strategy in New York Magazine:

"'Romney really, actually thinks that if you just take care of the folks at the top, it'll trickle down to everybody else,' says another Obama operative. 'But no one believes that stuff—no one! And once you puncture that, there's nothing left. He's not likable. He's not trustworthy. He's not on your side. You live in Pittsburgh and you've got dirt under your fingernails, who do you want to have a beer with? It ain't f#$%^ Mitt Romney. You're like, 'S#$%, I'd rather have a beer with the black guy than him!' "

Typical Pittsburgh voters, according to this Obama operative, are working class, vote based on who they want to have a beer with, and are racist enough that they view Obama being a "black guy" as a strike against him. But apparently Mitt Romney is so unlikable that it outweighs the race factor in the mind of the imagined Pittsburgh voter.

This is certainly not the first time that someone in politics has called Pennsylvania voters racist or otherwise made them seem not too intelligent.

Former Johnstown U.S. Rep. John Murtha told the Post-Gazette before the 2008 election that "there's no question Western Pennsylvania is a racist area." Murtha did think Obama could overcome the racism to win the state, though, which Obama did. Murtha apologized for the comment the next day. However, the apology did not stop him from telling WTAE a week later that "this whole area, years ago, was really redneck."

Perhaps the most famous analysis of Pennsylvania racism comes from Obama himself. In the midst of a tough Pennsylvania primary battle with Hillary Clinton in 2008, Obama made controversial comments to attendees of a fundraiser in San Francisco, the stereotypical opposite of working class Pittsburgh.

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

These imagined Pennsylvania voters perhaps are not quite redneck racists, but they are working class and not too bright. Therefore, "they cling to guns or religion" or just blame immigrants.

Pennsylvanians also clung to Hillary Clinton, handing her victory in the primary.

Despite the clinging and the racism, Obama beat Sen. John McCain by a healthy 10 points in the general election in the state in 2008, and the Obama campaign appears to be confident that it will win the state again in this year's general.

The same New York Magazine article quotes a "senior Obama campaign official" boasting that there are 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania.

Peter Sullivan is a news intern at the Post-Gazette.

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Budget talks blooming early in Hbg

Published by Laura Olson on .

Turzai_Pileggi

An early state budget is looking increasingly possible, with top GOP lawmakers saying this morning that they plan to meet with Gov. Tom Corbett next week to present a spending plan that has support from House and Senate Republicans.

From Michael Macagnone, our Harrisburg intern:

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said that the plan he continued negotiating this morning with House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, would keep them on the road to a finished budget by the middle of the month.

"It is an optimistic time frame but an achievable one," Mr. Pileggi said Wednesday of the mid-June goal.

Mr. Turzai said that the eventual legislative budget deal would use the $27.6 billion plan the Senate passed as a ceiling, but did not rule out spending below that total.

... Mr. Pileggi said that the two Republican caucuses were "not apart in concept, and we are working through the details" on primary education funding and other issues. Neither House nor Senate Democratic leaders were invited to today's negotiations.

Photo: Michael Macagnone

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Roddey: GOP's Kumbaya with Fitz

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Allegheny County GOP chair Jim Roddey remains at odds with (most) of his fellow Republicans on county council, who he says are singing "Kumbaya" with Rich Fitzgerald and other county Democrats.Jim Roddey

Last year Roddey openly criticized a three-member voting bloc of council Republicans, saying they were kowtowing to Democrats on tax and transit funding matters, and made a rare endorsement in a local race, pushing attorney Heather Heidelbaugh for council's open GOP at-large seat. The other Republicans on the body (Matt Drozd, Vince Gastgeb and Jan Rea) supported her opponent Ed Kress, who was serving as interim member after Chuck McCullough resigned to run for executive.

When Roddey was county exec the council was split 8-7 in favor of Democrats but it has since swelled to 11-4 in favor of the  opposing party. He wrote a letter to the Republican-friendly editorial page of the Tribune-Review Sunday calling the three GOP members other than Heidelbaugh "a rubber stamp" for Fitzgerald:

In recent years, the Democrats have taken control of the council by a margin of 11-4. The result has been for the council to become a rubber stamp for the agenda of the county executive, rather than being a check on the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of county government. We have also witnessed a disappointing lack of leadership from the Republican members of the council. Their modus operandi of "go along, get along" has effectively silenced the much-needed voice of opposition required to halt or at least modify some of the council's ill-advised and often foolish legislative actions, i.e., the reassessment debacle, the raising of taxes and the failure of any meaningful progress on city-county functional consolidation.

Hopefully, Heather will be able to change the debate surrounding such issues. At the very least, her grasp of the details, her desire to do what is right for a majority of county citizens and her intelligent and articulate voice of opposition will be a welcome change from the other Republican members' chorus of "Kumbaya."

While Heather will not win a popularity contest among the members of our lackluster council, she will give us a voice not only to cheer but to respect.

Asked in an interview today why he sent the letter, Roddey said Heidelbaugh's fellow Republicans "have not treated her very well" and not invited her to private GOP caucus meetings. "It's been disappointing. I'm fed up," said the party leader.

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Election 2012: Find your political soul mate

Published by Emily Dobler on .

Indecision 2012 logo

With the 2012 presidential election season in full swing, websites that compile and organize information on candidates are cropping up everywhere.

These sites are increasingly mirroring dating sites’ format, like match.com or eHarmony.

You answer a series of questions about your political views and are shown which politician you’re most compatible with. Considering the back-and-forth attack ads between candidates, this “political soul mate” test seems to have some value.

Voter research organization Project Vote Smart created their own compatibility app which measures voters’ compatibility across every presidential candidate and congressional candidate. Profiles, voting records, and speeches are compiled for each politician too – like picking a significant other, voters should know all the facts before settling down with any of the candidates.

However, these surveys are only useful if politicians concretely state their views. Moving beyond surveys, Project Vote Smart also created the Political Courage Test. With the purpose of spreading information, the test asks candidates to concretely describe their respective stances on a variety of popular issues. This information is then made available to voters on the organization’s website.

The test, aptly named, has not been a favorite among candidates. According to the website, a majority of politicians – including Barack Obama and Ron Paul – have refused to take the test. Even though these politicians’ views can easily be inferred, a definite yes/no on tough issues seems to be out of the question.

Until more transparency is reached, voters will have to continue relying on organizations like Project Vote Smart to find their political partner.

Photo: uscentrist.org. Comedian Jon Stewart's Indecision 2012 logo.