Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Good Year for Blogging in Delaware

2006 was a good year for Delaware bloggers. Case in point: News Journal reporter Alison Kepner delivers an obligatory year-end trend story that features some folks well known in Delaware's blogosphere, including Dana Garrett of Delaware Watch, John Flaherty who pops up frequently in DW, and Judson Bennett who writes a regular rant in First State Politics.
Delaware's bloggers became a significant source of breaking political news in 2006, which is why they are required reading in the News Journal newsroom and among at least some politicians.
Last week, it was Mike Matthew's turn to get his old media props for his use of video to capture pols' reactions to his annoying questions on Down With Absolutes. Last month, Jason Scott of Delaware Liberal got the nod in an appearance on Channel 12's Delaware Tonight. Delaware's old media are finding out that people are interested in news and views from people beyond the usual suspects.
In the meanwhile, the roster of worthwhile Delaware bloggers continues to grow. I count five of the blogs listed to the right that started up this year. It's worth noting that Delaware is the only place I know where liberal and conservative blogs link to each other. This growth in the number oand qualitiy of Delaware blogs is good for all of us; a significant portion of my readers get here by way of fellow bloggers. Thanks everyone for your interest. See you in 2007.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wilmington to Expand Curbside Recycling

For the last five months, I've been putting all my recyclable materials (glass, plastic, paper) in one bin once a week as part of Wilmington's pilot curbside recycling program. Soon more of my neighbors will be able to do the same.
The News Journal reports that the city is going to expand curbside recycling to all residents by June, even though the neighborhoods in the program have only diverted 32 percent of the waste stream, falling short of the target diversion rate of 50 percent:
Early in the pilot program, officials said 50 percent of the trash stream must get recycled in order to decrease landfill fees enough to offset the projected $786,000 a permanent program would cost annually. But [city communications director] Rago said the city plans to implement the program citywide for at least the next five years.
"The final numbers are still being ironed out, but we think that enough recycling will be done citywide so that the city will at least break even, if not save money in landfill fees," he said.
It's a rational decision. Few private sector strategic initiatives are expected to break even in six months; the city's program should not be deemed a failure after such a short trial period.
Councilman Bud Freel thinks the cost of recycling is worth the environmental benefits:
Freel said he thinks the program should go citywide even if it ends up costing the city money.
"I don't think you can put a price tag on the environmental benefits of recycling," he said.
While I appreciate his sentiment and his leadership on the issue, I don't quite agree. I think you can measure the economic benefits, and conclude that it makes economic sense for the city to move ahead even if it hasn't yet reached the break-even point.
Six months ago, I wrote that the economic benefits of recycling are real and can be calculated. But the overall benefits I calculated required a modest capital investment (roughly $5 million) that has not been made. Wilmington has engaged a Philadelphia firm to do what the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) is not equipped to do: accept unsorted recyclable materials. The DSWA has enormous fixed costs that are covered by tipping fees, and thus may have little incentive to make the necessary investment in recycling.
If Wilmington's recycling program helps to nudge the DSWA towards diverting more of the solid waste stream away from landfilling, then it will generate economic benefits that are not reflected in the city's current pilot program.

Monday, December 25, 2006

They'll (Hopefully) Be Home for Christmas

There's no place like Denver International Airport for the holidays. BoingBoing posted this photo of the airport socked in by snow.
After nearly a week, flights are mostly back on schedule. According to the Washington Post, 3,000 flights were cancelled last week, forcing as many as 4,700 stranded passengers to camp out in the airport.

Photo: Ashley Niblock

Friday, December 22, 2006

Cam Hay Voted on to City Council

Last night Wilmington City Council voted to appoint Cam Hay to represent the 8th district. The seat was vacated after Gerald Brady was elected to the State House. As I noted here earlier this week, Cam had won four of the five votes of the special committee formed to interview the candidates and make a recommendation to the full Council.
In the News Journal, Adam Taylor reports that two members of Council complained that the result was a foregone conclusion:
Councilwoman Loretta Walsh, whose stepson David Walsh was one of the replacement candidates, abstained.
"The whole process was a facade; it was a farce," Loretta Walsh said.
I was one of eight candidates considered for the vacancy. Last night I spoke before Council to thank them for the opportunity to be fairly considered for the seat. I commended the committee on its endorsement of Cam Hay and urged Council to vote to appoint him.
I hardly consider myself an innocent when it comes to the machinations of city politics, and would have noticed if the game had been rigged or I had been played.
As far as I can see, all eight candidates had an equal chance to make their case. I have no regrets and no complaints.
Cam Hay is an excellent choice to serve on Council. He has my hearty congratulations and unqualified support.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Philadelphia Casino Locations: the "Worst-Case Scenario"

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Inga Saffron neatly sums up the ill-considered decision to locate two casinos on Philadelphia's waterfront:
For those who care about the way cities look and function, the Gaming Control Board's decision to anoint Foxwoods and SugarHouse heirs to Philadelphia's two gambling licenses is the worst-case scenario. The winners offered the fewest amenities, uninspired designs, and two of the most cramped and inconvenient sites.
These bad decisions didn't happen by accident, but were almost preordained by a process designed to impose casinos on communities that don't want them and don't need them. Having spent two years working in Northern Liberties, I'm more familiar with the site of the SugarHouse Casino, which is to be located at Delaware Avenue and Frankfort.
The fundamental problem with this location is that it will severely impact the thriving communities of Fishtown and Northern Liberties. Casinos can be thought of as the economic development option of last resort. When your local economy is a basket case, when all else fails in terms of attracting new construction and jobs, call in the casinos. But the communities surrounding the SugarHouse location are hardly basket cases. Northern Liberties has been a hotbed of redevelopment for several years, and Fishtown is experiencing the spillover and rising real estate prices as a result. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in new condos in Northern Liberties and the nearby waterfront in the last few years. A five tower, luxury condo project is rising just a few blocks south of Delaware and Frankfort.
The community doesn't need the casinos, which brings me to the second problem with the process. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in its mad rush to get its hands on gambling revenue, set up a process that gives local residents essentially no say in site selection. If the reason for building casinos (other than filling government coffers) is to create development where none is likely to exist, then why shut local communities out of the process? Philadelphia is a big place, with miles of abandoned waterfront.
The tacky design and name of the project add insult to injury. "SugarHouse" sounds much too like one of the fading gentlemen's clubs the communities have been working so hard to shut down.
To get involved in protecting Philly's waterfront communities,
Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront ( and Casino-Free Philadelphia ( are the umbrella organizations working to protect the interests of those neighborhoods being railroaded.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cam Hay Recommended to Fill Vacant Seat on City Council

A Wilmington City Council committee has recommended that Cam Hay be chosen to represent the 8th Council District, replacing Gerald Brady who was elected to the state House of Representatives last month. Four of the five committee members voted in favor of Hay.
Cam Hay challenged Joe DiPinto in 2000 and 2004, winning 41.4 percent and 42.2 percent of the vote against a well-regarded incumbent.
I was among the eight candidates considered by the committee. I've already spoken to Cam and plan to express my support when City Council meets on Thursday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Responsibility and Irresponsibility in Washington

Little commands my attention so much as examples, and counter-examples, of responsible governing. The GOP-led Congress, having been repudiated at the polls, isn't even trying to complete its most basic reponsibilities. When the gavel comes down on the current Congress, thirteen cabinet agencies will still not be funded for the fiscal year that began October 1.
I don't know to what extent the GOP leaders just walked away from their duties and to what extent they hoped to keep the Democrats busy in the new year. But according to the Washington Post, the incoming Democratic leadership has decided to wrap up the unfinished appropriations into one omnibus bill, without cluttering it up with the earmarks that have exploded in popularity in the last twelve years:
The plan by the incoming chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees would kill thousands of hometown projects, called "earmarks," that lawmakers add to spending bills. Staying within President Bush's thrifty budgets for domestic agencies like the Agriculture and Education departments is part of their proposal.
"There will be no congressional earmarks," Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said Monday in a statement announcing their plans, which were endorsed by incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Yes, that Senator Byrd, who has the reputation of playing the earmark game like a vintage mountain fiddle. As the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch reports, Byrd is giving up earmarks, at least for the remainder of the fiscal year:
Sen. Robert Byrd has built a reputation in Congress and in West Virginia using special interest funding to bring federal jobs and money home, but the king of pork said he's willing to give up his projects for 2007 to find a way out of the "fiscal chaos" left by the outgoing Republican-led Congress.
Byrd, incoming chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and his House counterpart Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin outlined their plan late Monday to pass a yearlong stopgap spending bill to keep government programs and agencies functioning until Sept. 30, 2007. To expedite the process, Byrd and Obey said they would eliminate earmarks -- funding inserted into bills by lawmakers for projects in their district or states -- from the unfinished budget.
Meanwhile, as the Washington Post reports, the GOP-led Congress, which has been too busy to see to the business of funding our federal government, has found time to give away buckets of tax breaks:
A huge tax bill that Congress passed last week contained a little-noticed gift for select corporations -- tens of millions of dollars in breaks on import tariffs.
Early Saturday morning, in the frantic final hours of the 109th Congress, lawmakers rolled 520 tariff suspensions into the must-pass bill. The provisions will reduce or eliminate taxes on imported products as varied as shoes, camcorders and boiled oysters.
While such suspensions have been around for decades, the flurry of provisions pushed this Congress to a record of nearly 800 for the year. Corporate lobbyists often craft such suspensions to apply to just one product imported by just one company. Many of those companies and their executives have given millions of dollars to political campaigns.
It's comforting to know that, come January, our congressional leaders will be minding the store on behalf of the American public.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dave Burris Touted as the New Sussex GOP Chair

According to Celia Cohen, Dave Burris of First State Politics is the "consensus choice" to take over as the new chair of the Sussex County GOP. In additon to his blogging, Dave, who comes from a well regarded political family, has done real, ground level political organizing. Let's all wish him well and hope he continues to keep us all up to speed via FSP.

Monday, December 11, 2006

By Way of Explanation

To my loyal and patient readers:
I've been rather sporadic in my posting recently, due to a long cold, general post-election weariness and my being tied up with a couple of projects. Thanks for your continuing interest in all things wonky.

Friday, December 08, 2006

First Mercury, Now Lead?

For those who claim there's no difference between Republicans and Democrats, TPM Muckraker has the story on EPA's draft report that indicates that our government is considering relaxing standards for lead emissions.
The draft, titled "Policy Assessment of Scientific and Technical Information: First Draft Staff Paper," includes this remarkable sentence:
Given the significantly changed circumstances since Pb was listed in 1976, we will evaluate the status of Pb as a criteria pollutant in light of currently available information and assess whether revocation of the standard is an appropriate option for the Administrator to consider. (Page 1-1, line 29)
This is not the first time BushCo has considered relaxing controls on a neurotoxin. Earlier this year, Delaware joined 15 other states in challenging the Bush administration's new regulation creating a cap and trade system for mercury emissions. Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate failed to overturn this ill-conceived rule.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

John Bolton and the Failed Neocon Experiement

Steve Clemons of The Washington Note has had more to do than about anyone with hastening the retirement of John Bolton from public service. Clemons has written a useful post-mortem on the short diplomatic career of John Bolton, which can be summed up in one sentence:
John Bolton, in my view, saw a significant portion of his job as not to achieve success at the United Nations but rather to set the UN up for failure.
The neocon crowd's view has been is that the U.N. represented an obstacle to remaking the world in their image. According to this point of view, the failure of the U.N. needed to be exposed for all the world to see; once this happened we could remake the insitution to our liking.
The effort to tear down and rebuild the U.N. was related to that other neocon project in Iraq.
If those U.N. bueaucrats, inept weapons inspectors and wishy-washy diplomats would just get out of the way, we could get on with the task of remaking Iraq and its neighbors as peaceful, pro-western democracies.
The litany of excuses now being offered for the Iraq debacle extends to the media, the Democrats, and the failure of nerve among the American people, to name a few. The one possible cause for the mess in Iraq that goes unmentioned by those looking to salvage the neocon experiment is the uncomfortable fact that the world refused to behave according to plan. The history of the last century is littered with ideologies that failed to apprehend the great big untidy world in which we live. Let us hope that the neocons' failed experiment is laid to rest as we struggle with cleaning up the mess they made.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pointless Polls and Predictions for 2008

Before we all get caught up in predicting the 2008 campaign, let me offer a pointed question: In our lifetime, how many early frontrunners (other than vice presidents) went on to win their party's nomination? And how many of those went on to win the general election?
Discuss in relation to the current polls and predictions for 2008.