Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Phillies Owner Middleton's Grand Palm Beach Mansion

It was announced yesterday that Phillies owner John Middleton and his wife Leigh will be given the prestigious Philadelphia Award this year. The Middleton family sold John Middleton Co, which was founded in 1856 as a center city tobacco store, to Altria for $2.9 billion in 2007. After the sale, John and Leigh Middleton stepped up their philanthropy including major gifts to Project Home and the Philadelphia School District.  John Middleton serves in the board of trustees of Penn Medicine.

John Middleton

The Middletons have been building a mansion on the northern end of the island of Palm Beach, Florida for the last 3 years. Much to the chagrin of neighbors, who including the Duponts, the construction noise at the house might continue into 2015. Progress on the mega mansion is proceeding slowly because Palm Beach enforces strictly, especially during the season, the time each day that the contractors are allowed to work

The oceanfront property boasts a large main house, two guest houses, servant quarters, and 10 car garage to store Middleton's antique car collections. As one neighbor noted, "The house is so big that the guest house has a guest house."

It is a shame that Middleton can't use his riches to field a winning team for the Phillies.

The view from the beach

The garage

I can't figure out what it is taking so long. The windows are already in. 

Are the blue rails surrounding a pool or a barbecue pit?

The view from their home, 
The Middleton's have nice neighbors. The Duponts live two houses away.
The beach is mostly private except for pretty ladies doing yoga. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hillary Clinton To Fundraise for Marjorie Margolies, Chelsea Clinton's Mother-in-Law

Hillary Clinton will be appearing next year at a fundraiser for Marjorie Margolies' congressional campaign in the Pennsylvania suburbs, according to Ken Smukler, who serves as a communications consultant for Margolies.
Margolies, who is Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, is locked in a Democratic primary campaign against a strong progressive, state Sen. Daylin Leach, as well as two others. Margolies served one congressional term in the early 1990s.
Longtime Margolies fundraiser Linda August, who attended Chelsea Clinton's wedding, also confirmed Clinton's upcoming appearance.

"Hillary said from the beginning that she was not going to be political this year except for McAuliffe and family. She is scheduled to come in six months before the election. She is coming in just when we need her," said Smukler, who also serves as spokesman for the local Democratic party. "The Clintons are doing this for themselves as much as for Marjorie. They can't have a family member lose a race for Congress six months before she is gearing up for a presidential election."
Leach said he wasn't concerned by Margolies' support from the Clinton camp.
"We have outpaced all of our opponents in fundraising and outreach since I got into the race," he told HuffPost. "We are following a very carefully crafted campaign plan. That plan does not depend on who does and does not support or attend fund-raisers for any of our opponents. I wish them all well, but I have a long history of winning elections, and I and my team are extremely confident our campaign will prevail on May 20th. "
The campaign of physician Val Arkoosh, another candidate for the congressional seat, disputed Leach's figures, and said Arkoosh currently led in fundraising. "We are the leading fundraiser in this race among the slate of candidates as of the end of the 3rd quarter with 588k cash-on-hand," said communications director Bryan Lesswing. "We are leading state Sen. Leach by over 210k, and Marjorie Margolies by 398k."

Smukler made his comments about Margolies at a fundraiser for the Dorys Erving Fit Youth (DEFY) Foundation at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Philadelphia on Friday night. Dorys is the wife of former NBA legend and Philadelphia favorite son Julius "Dr. J" Erving. Dr. J is currently on a book tour promoting his memoir, "Dr J: The Autobiography."
The foundation will provide a platform for solutions to childhood obesity in Philadelphia. According to the CDC, 25 percent of school age children in Philadelphia are suffering from obesity. The huge cake rolled out for desert illustrates the difficulty of tackling obesity.

The gala attracted many celebrities, such as former Laker star Kareem Abdul Jabbar and R & B singer Jeffrey Osborne, and local politicians such as Congressman Bob Brady. Brady lamented about the ubiquity of fast food chains in Philadelphia.

Osborne's performance was the highlight of the night.

State Senator Anthony Williams, who is running for mayor of Philadelphia in 2015,  and his wife Shari shared a romantic to "On The Wings of Love."

Even Dorys and Julius Erving couldn't resist the music.

At the same event, Jabbar voiced his frustration at the racism of Obama's critics.

"Obama is the President of the United States. He should be treated with respect."Many of the president's critics, especially the birthers, are racist. This nonsense that he was born in Kenya, which we all know is not true, is pure racism," Jabbar said.

The Huffington Post Washington editor Ryan Grim co-wrote this post with me. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cohen Fundraising Letter for DSCC Fundraiser with Obama

President Obama will speak at a DSCC fundraiser at the home of Comcast EVP David L. Cohen and his wife Rhonda on Thursday night. Richard Vague is the co-chairman. He made a fortune in fossil fuels, then credit cards. He then founded venture capital firm, Gabriel Partners. Senator Robert Casey will be there.

Here is Cohen's solicitation email.

Some of you were at the DSCC finance committee meeting yesterday, but for those who were not, Anne Caprara, Political Director at the DSCC gave a great update on the major Democratic Senate races.  We announced that we are currently at $600K in pledges and money in the door.  The DSCC has set a goal of $750K for this event, but we all agreed that we should be able to raise $1M as this finance committee has countless times in the past for the DSCC.

Just as a refresher, here are the details of the event Rhonda’s and my home: Address blocked out.

Event co-chairs: $32,400 - 5PM Cocktails and hors d'oeurvres, followed by a very small clutch, photos and dinner/Q&A with the President (At this level you are welcome to bring a guest for the photo and dinner portions of the event).

Event sponsor: $10,000 - Per person 5PM Cocktails and hors d'oeurvres, followed by photos and dinner/ Q&A with the President

If everyone on this email would either write or raise $10,000, we would easily be able to meet our goal of $1M and have a true impact on the programs that the DSCC works every day to implement in each of the targeted Senate races which obviously proved to be a winning strategy in the 2012 cycle (and in previous cycles).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

VA Marks Veterans' Graves "UNKNOWN" Rather Than Identify Heroes

Mount Moriah Cemetery, located in Southwest Philadelphia and Yeadon, Pennsylvania was the largest private cemetery in Pennsylvania. The cemetery has been largely abandoned since the owner died and his wife disavowed ownership in 2011. 

The cemetery has two National Cemetery plots, which Congress mandated to be maintained by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The plots contain 2300 veteran’s graves, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients. One of these plots, called the Naval Asylum Plot, is in dire need of help.

Sam Ricks, who is on the board of Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, said, "Both plots lacks something basic found in all other National Cemeteries: a flagpole with a US Flag flying over veterans' graves.The Naval Plot contains numerous grave markers that are now illegible after years of inattention and lack of maintenance. The VA replaces them with their ubiquitous white marble "UNKNOWN" marker despite the availability of a volunteer conducted transcription survey identifying many of the now blank Navy and Marine markers."

Ricks is worried the grave markers that will ultimately be "Lost to History" if the VA continues to replace them with their ubiquitous white marble "UNKNOWN" markers." 

Ricks added.  These are the graves of our Nation's earliest heroes, who actually fought "from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli." 

The VA has also been to slow to place special gold leaf Medal of Honor designation on the stones. 

Paulette Rhone, chairman of the board of the friends, had a chance encounter with the VA grounds supervisor of Washington Crossing Cemetery, who is responsible for the military cemeteries in the area, the day before the government shutdown, September 30, to discuss the issue. The staff promised to start taking care of the grounds, but have yet to do anything. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Philadelphia School Reform Commission Chairman Brags About His Accomplishments

Philadelphia School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos was given the 2013 William J. Clothier II Memorial Award by the Pan American Association of Philadelphia.While most of us see dilapidated schools in Philadelphia, Ramos, a partner at the law firm of Trujillo, Rodriguez, and Richards, boasted about the School Reform Commission accomplishments during his tenure. Too busy bragging, he did not find the time to include Laporshia Massey, the young student who died from asthma complications, in his thoughts.

Here is a tape of Ramos's speech

He touted the recruitment of  the "exceptionally talented leader" Dr. Hite as superintendent of Philadelphia public schools, reduced the number of school buildings, labor agreements with the blue collar SEIU, and reinvigorate private philanthropy that had started to wane. He glossed over the reduced financial contribution from the state.

"Over the last two years, spending has been reduced to actual revenues level," he said. "The school district has instituted a 5 year financial plan."

Ramos, who conceded public service and responsibility can be "messy," continued, "All adults must insist on a safe, high quality education."

When I asked him after the speech if he had any comments about the death of Massey, he bristled with indignation. He offered no words of condolence to Massey's family.

He said, "I have no comment. Unlike everybody else, I don't offer my opinion without the facts. Call the School Board."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cory Booker Mocks Gay Rumors

NJ Senatorial candidate Cory Booker performed at Stu Bykofsky's Candidates Comedy Night which benefits the Variety Club charities on August 23. His well received comedy routine included bits that mocked about the rumors that he is gay, being frequently compared to Obama, and his friendship with Republican Governor Chris Christie. Of course, there were the requisite jokes about birth certificates, political pandering, Philly sports fans, and Oprah. Unlike several of the other candidates, the charismatic Booker was able to be funny without any hint of raunchiness.

He addressed the gay rumors after being accused of inseminating a panda by another candidate performer.

Booker said, "I have been accused of some incredible things like being a KKK member, Jewish, Republican, gay, and a member of the CIA, but never inseminating a panda."

He touched on one local issue.

Why did George Washington cross the Delaware in a boat? he asked. "Because even back then, the tolls were too damn high."

On the day of the event, Obama endorsed Booker as the Democratic candidate for the Senate in New Jersey. While proud of the endorsement, he carefully delineated the differences between the two.

"When Obama left school, he became a community activist. When I left school, I became a neighborhood coordinator," joked the NJ senatorial candidate. "President Obama was born in the United States. I was born in Washington DC. Given the way that they kept records back then, I may not be able to produce a birth certificate."

Booker made light of the criticism that he receives over his friendship with Republican Governor Chris Christie. He also dismissed the possibility of any friction between them due to the governor's endorsement of his Republican opponent.

"My opponents came after me for me being close to the Governor of my state when I am mayor of the largest city," he said. "Last night, when I was with Mary Pat and Chris brushing our teeth and we expressed our frustration."

Not one to take himself seriously, Booker mocked his celebrity status. Talking about the frustrations of the campaign trial, he said, "Thanks goodness, I have Oprah to talk to."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Two Bills Provide Hope for Higher Education in Pennslvania

The Oregon legislature recently passed unanimously a bill, “Pay it Forward,” bill that authorized a pilot program to students to attend Oregon public universities tuition free.  This innovative idea might have sparked a higher education revolution in Pennsylvania. Two Philadelphia area legislators, who are both running to replace Allyson Schwartz in the US Congress, raced to copy the innovative idea albeit taking different approaches. 

While many of my journalism colleagues have written about the race to introduce the bill, I believe that high education is too important an issue to play insider baseball with it. 

Pa State Senator Daylin Leach, whose district included part of Montgomery and Delaware counties, argues with Pennsylvania having one of the lowest college graduation rates in the country, the state vitally needs an overhaul of its higher education system so its citizens will have the skills to work in this economy and jobs don’t need to be sent overseas.

The bill of Representative Brendan Boyle, who represents Northeast Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania House, mirrors the Oregon bill.  He wants to mandate the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to study the issue and run a pilot program.

“I am probably the only public official that still had $60,000 in student loan debt, said Boyle, who went to Notre Dame on an academic scholarship. “I have been a leader on higher education issues since I was elected to the House 5 years ago. I introduced the bill for the REACH Scholarships for academically gifted students, which was modeled after the HOPE scholarship program in Georgia.”

Leach will be introducing a bill in September that outlines a plan to implement the free tuition program. He is working with Representative Mark Longetti, who represents Mercer County.

“We don’t feel a need to study the issue, “said Leach’s chief of staff Zachary Hoover. “We think it is such a good idea that it should be implemented immediately.

Leach’s proposal, “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back,” initially calls for an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale to establish the fund. He expects the fund to be self-sustaining after 15 years.

“Students will be able to borrow from the fund to pay for their tuition interest free, said Leach. “It will not be a case of them borrowing $100,000, and owing $150,000 because of the interest they racked up."

Once they start working, those that borrowed will have their wages 4% a year until they repay the loan.

“For those that do not find a job, their loans will not be in default, explained the Senator. “The loan proceeds will be repaid by an insurance policy that they took out when they originally borrowed the loan. If the loan is for $100,000, they will borrow $110,000. $10,000 will be used to buy an insurance policy.”

For those that ask why they should care about high education costs when they don’t have children, Boyle has a ready answer.

“The indebtedness of our young people affects the economy, particularly industries such as real estate,” he said. “Young people are delaying purchasing home because of their large student loans. A local real estate agent told me that he used to see people in their mid to late twenties buying home, now they wait until they are in their mid-thirties.”