Philadelphia bike sharing program looking for sugar daddy
By Tom MacDonald, @tmacdonaldwhyy
A bike sharing program is continuing to move forward in Philadelphia and the city is looking for a company with deep pockets to buy naming rights.
Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler says grants from both the public and private sector should cover the $10 million to $15 million cost of rolling out a bike share program.
"Eventually there will be somewhere between 150 and 200 bike share stations they will hold about 10 bikes a piece," said Cutler. "When the program is fully operational in 2015 there will be somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 bikes."
The city is seeking a corporate sponsor to buy naming rights for the program, as Citibank did in New York.
Cutler says the bike share will not be citywide though it will cover a great deal of the city.
"From the Delaware River into West Philadelphia, from the Navy Yard through Center City and up to Temple University’s main campus in North Philadelphia so it will be pretty extensive," she said.
The city has set up a website at phila.gov/bikeshare seeking private property owners willing to host bike share stations.
Allstate’s Julia Reusch says her company is not using the report as a way to charge Philly drivers more for insurance.
"What we are doing with this study is just looking at crash data and then there are many factors that go into deciding insurance rates," she said.
Reusch says the study also seeks to find ways to cut down accidents.
"It sounds so simple, but unfortunately it’s not anymore," she said. "When you are driving, just pay attention to driving. People are talking with their kids, they are turned around, they are fiddling with their radio. We want people to focus on their driving when they are driving."
Philadelphia isn’t the worst city overall. Washington DC, which only has about 600,000 residents, has that “honor.”
Mapping firm Esri has today released an interactive map of the California Rim Fire, which is now in its 12th day. In the map above, you can explore the fire’s geography — its invasion of Yosemite National Park, its encroachment upon the Hetch Hetchy reservoir which supplies the Bay Area’s water supply, and its proximity to a cluster of Toulumne county communities, many of which are under evacuation orders.
Review: 'The Butler' is a portrait of a quiet witness to tumultuous history
By Carrie Rickey, @CarrieRickey
When Eugene Allen entered the room, he strove to be invisible. Allen, an African-American, served eight presidents as a White House butler, from Harry Truman to George H. W. Bush. According to the new film inspired by his life, during his tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., he overheard Eisenhower tell Arkansas Gov. Faubus that integration was the law of the land, Johnson struggle to frame the Voting Rights Act, and Reagan refuse to impose sanctions on South Africa in the era of apartheid.
"Lee Daniels’ The Butler" is a fictionalized version of Allen’s life that casts Forest Whitaker in the title role as Cecil Gaines. The film powerfully makes visible this invisible man who wears one face on the job and another as the moderate father of a radical son during a politically polarized period of American history.
At the same time this story of conflict and reconciliation makes visible something that is mostly invisible in American films: The African-American nuclear family. This is far from the pathology of the black family in Daniels’ “Precious”. This is about the tensions and tenderness in a functional family. This is about how political beliefs can fracture a family and also bring it together.
"The Butler" electrifies with its generational struggle between Cecil, servant to power, and his son (David Oyelowo) fighting for black power. While watching Whitaker play the spousal scenes the domestic scenes with his wife (a fierce and funny Oprah Winfrey), and the paternal scenes with his son, David Oyelowo, it struck me that I hadn’t seen a film about a complex, functional black family in a while, maybe since 2007’s "This Christmas".
But with the recent release of “Fruitvale Station” and the forthcoming ”12 Years a Slave”, ”The Butler” won’t be the only 2013 film about relationships in black families.
"The Butler" is at once the story of its hero’s three families: The broken one of origin, the intact one he builds with his wife that is broken by the struggles of the 1960s, and the larger American family, broken by racism and factionalism. As Cecil, Whitaker struggles to mend those breaks as he reconciles his two faces.
The panoramic screenplay, by Danny Strong, is like Forrest Gump with substance. Daniels introduces us to Cecil as a child, working with his sharecropper father in the cotton fields and forced to witnesses the land owner’s brutal treatment of his parents.
Young Cecil is taken into the home of the land owner’s mother and taught to serve. She tells him, “The room should be empty when you are in it.”
And so he becomes a master at staying in the background; polishing silver, pouring libations, appearing with a beverage or meal in a way that never intrudes or interrupts.
Before eight chief executives, in a White House that has much in common with the plantation manor where he perfected his skills, Cecil pours champagne into flutes and tea into china cups without spilling a drop. Likewise, his emotions never spill over. Yet one point of Daniels’ movie — and of Whitaker’s elegantly contained performance — is that Cecil fills up every room he enters. He fills it the way a supporting player fills the stage and unintentionally draws attention away from the lead.
The quality that makes Cecil ideal for his job is less welcome at home. His demonstrative wife (Oprah Winfrey) thinks he’s shut down and feels alone. His son, Louis (Oyelowo) is as vociferous in his political protests as his father is soft-spoken and accomodationist on the job.
Their generation gap widens into a chasm when Daniels intercuts scenes of Cecil graciously serving dignitaries at a White House dinner with those of Louis ungraciously bloodied for sitting at the whites-only area of a lunch counter. Louis is enraged by what he thinks is Cecil’s subservience. But when the young man joins Martin Luther King’s circle and the Civil Rights leader talks about blacks in service as subversives on the front lines of integration, Louis listens.
Yes, James Marsden plays JFK, Liev Schreiber LBJ, John Cusack Nixon and Alan Rickman Reagan. Presidents come and go, but the focus is Cecil and Louis and the conflict of whether it is nobler to wait for change or to go out and make it.
Just when you think you’re watching the story about a witness to history you see how, in his own way and in his own sphere, Cecil is an agent of change. You know it because at movie’s end, he wears the same face at the White House as in his own home.
"Friday is my birthday!" a 20-something friend announced on Facebook on a recent Monday morning. "That means Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are my birthday, too!"
Not so fast.
I guess I never realized it until I entered the social media universe a year or two after college, but every day is someone else’s special day. And darned if you’re going to forget about it.
Some souls are content with a single status update late on the hallowed evening:
"Thanks for all the birthday wishes! I feel loved."
Others don’t trust digital reminders and the bonds of friendship to do their work:
"IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!"
"It’s my birthday weekend!" may be acceptable if you’ve booked some kind of special getaway. And maybe if your birthday is on a Wednesday but the party’s Friday night, I’ll give you the two days. But if you’re anywhere close to adulthood, there’s no such thing as a birthday week.
You are not a 16th-century monarch. You don’t command multiple days for your personal festivities.
As a child, I always thought the chief difficulty of my own birthday, Aug. 7, was that no matter what, it only lasted until I went to bed: Aug. 8 was like any other day, except that it was further away from my next birthday than any other day of the year.
Once, on Feb. 7, I did ask my mother if we could celebrate my half-birthday. The answer: No.
The ultimate in social media narcissism
But social media is tailor-made for those who turn the feed into a stream-of-consciousness birthday bonanza that goes on for days.
Some people begin by hinting several days or even a month in advance. One speculates on a “birthday haircut” and keeps us up to date on packing for birthday travel. The blessed day itself dawns with general satisfaction: “So far, the first hour and a half of my birthday have been awesome.” Then there’s some reference to a glitch in the “birthday schedule.”
As the day goes on, mundane events become extraordinary injustices through the lens of the birthday:
"Running into my most annoying ex on my birthday = not cool."
"Who gives someone a ticket for their brake light being out on their birthday?"
As a new photo album appears—to apprise us of the weekend’s birthday trip—I think we can finally lay this birthday to rest. But a new invitation appears: The birthday would live on, at least until next weekend, with a Birthday Picnic.
Because one day, or even one week, is simply not enough time to publicly revel in the light we bring to the world.
Your special day isn’t so special
In high school, I took a comparative religions course featuring guest speakers from various denominations. The ones I remember best were the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a contingent of well-scrubbed teens whose Bible paging could have replaced the classroom’s electric fan. I was shocked by their nonchalant declaration that they did not celebrate birthdays. I could hardly fathom such a flat-lined existence. But now I wonder if they weren’t on to something.
Because while you’re celebrating the Twelve Days of My Birthday with more feasting than the Lannister court, several other birthdays have come and gone. I have 461 Facebook friends (and I was never even one of the popular kids). Face it: I’m fond of you, but I’ll still owe birthday wishes to two other people tomorrow and two the day after that. Would you rather I kept celebrating yours instead?
Is it purely a phenomenon of the digital era? Back when we all lived in the real world, I wasn’t giving personal birthday wishes to well over 400 people a year.
Or does the birthday obsession signify an age-old vein of narcissism that’s been biding its time for millennia, waiting for the right platform?
Having departed my 20s last week, I am noticing something of a cure for the birthday syndrome among my friends: Bacchanalian birthday weeks take a steep drop when people become parents. On the other hand, 30 and childless, I’m currently one of only three or four women east of the Mississippi who are not pregnant, if social media is any indication.
You think the lead-up to friends’ birthdays was bad? Try the 30 months or so between the time somebody announces her first pregnancy and the time her second child is born. Forget the birthday week. It’s the birthday years. I can only imagine how long these kids will take to celebrate their birthdays.
Does my desire for appropriately scaled birthdays betray my jealously? Maybe if enough people liked me, I too would justify spinning my birthday out for seven days or more. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep up with the 450+ birthday greetings per annum, and I’ll ask people to return the favor on only one day out of the year.
Can Philadelphia land the 2016 Democratic presidential convention?
Maybe. But here’s another question: Are we sure we want to?
When the political parties pick your city to host a national convention, they expect you to really hostit, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of services and cash.
This is all laid out in requirements that competing cities get before they ever apply and enforced in contracts once the host is selected.
Take a look at the contract between the Democratic National Committee and Charlotte, N.C., for the 2012 convention.
The city’s host committee had to commit to raise $36.6 million in private contributions to fulfill its obligations under the deal, which included providing:
1. Use of the city’s arena for a full week at no charge to the DNC.
2. Media workspace adjacent to the arena with 200,000 square feet of rentable space.
3. 50,000 square feet of furnished, class-A office space in downtown Charlotte for the DNC for five months.
4. 250 air-conditioned buses to transport delegates and others.
5. Use of 50 vehicles for a year before the convention and 350 during the convention.
6. 800 laptop computers, 150 black and white laser printers, 100 color printers, 100 network-enabled photocopiers, 700 smartphones, and on and on.
Democratic National Committee representatives wouldn’t talk with me about their plans for 2016, but, trust me, this stuff is pretty much the way it goes. We know because we’ve been there.
When Philly got a big one
I was covering City Hall in the late ’90s when the city set a goal of getting one of the major conventions in 2000.
It was an impressive effort, led by energetic and talented people. By 1997, there were more than a dozen committees at work on everything from fundraising to transportation.
They applied to both parties, and when the Republican site selection committee came to town, they were blown away. Philadelphia got its first convention since 1948.
It wasn’t cheap or easy. The city put up about $60 million overall, about $39 million from public sources. There were massive demonstrations and plenty of lawsuits that came of the police response. But in the main, it worked.
At the time, it made sense to me for the city to take a shot at this.
Just a few years before, the city had been broke and dispirited, associated in the national media with phrases including “financial basket case.” By the late ’90s the city had not only restored financial stability, but had experienced a commercial and cultural rebirth, particularly in Center City.
There was a new convention center, hotels and a host of venues on Broad Street to show off. I’ve always thought Philadelphia was an unknown treasure and found friends from across the country loved the place when they got here and spent some time.
So when all those Republicans and 15,000 media representatives arrived in August, 2000, I was all for it. It was a great confidence-booster for the city to pull it off, and thousands of people from the region volunteered to work for the host committee.
I don’t know how much the city looking pretty on TV matters really. I do think that thousands of well-heeled and connected people coming and having a great experience here can benefit the city in a hundred ways that are hard to measure. It can get people to come and visit again, or tell their friends and relatives about the city, or make it more likely they’d send a kid to college here, or consider it as a place to do business.
But Philadelphia in 2013 isn’t the same place as Philadelphia in 1997. We aren’t coming out of a brush with fiscal death and are more established as a place to visit, at least in my mind. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort and expense it would take to attract a political convention.
And I know they aren’t the same thing, but imagine us struggling to find tens of millions for a big political party when our schools are on the edge of collapse.
Sure the hotels would love the business. But, gosh, haven’t we subsidized them enough with the convention center, the direct assistance some of them got to open and the ongoing promotion funded by the room tax?
Maybe I’m wrong
Talk to folks in the tourism and hospitality world, and they’ll tell you that if you want to keep your share of the market, you have to keep working at it.
Meryl Levitz, CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, told me that, yes, Philadelphia isn’t what it was in 1997. It’s better, and that’s a reason to let people know.
Levitz was one of those assembled by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady last week to talk about putting together a bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She said whether the city mounts a serious bid for the convention or not, there’s value in the conversation.
"It forces people to come together in the same room, look at their city—out of the space of the grueling day-to-day, how are we going to handle this, how are we going to handle that—and look at bigger issues," Levitz said. "Issues of access and transportation, and technology and visitor friendliness, and the future of the city, whether we get the event or not."
Mayor Michael Nutter said he’s very interested in the idea of competing for the convention but that cost is a serious issue.
Indeed. When the 2012 convention was over, the Charlotte host committee was $10 million in debt
Nearly three years ago, I got an important lesson in how little control we have over our own success when we put our employment in someone else’s hands.
I showed up for work one day at the Philadelphia Belle, an old-time paddleboat restaurant moored along the Delaware River waterfront, to a scene of eerie quiet. My bosses were huddled in the corner, no phones were ringing, nobody was working. A co-worker, seeing my confusion, explained that the Philadelphia Belle was bankrupt and closed for business, effective immediately.
Cradling a small box of my office possessions an hour later, waiting for the Market-Frankford Line at 2nd and Market streets, my situation seemed like a film stuck on a loop: Lehigh University graduate; 24 years old; unemployed; overwhelmed with student loan debt.
What I wanted most was to engage in meaningful work and to be self-sufficient.
At 13, I’ve been noticing something different: Facebook is losing teens lately.
Our research supports this: though some 94% of teens have a Facebook profile, focus group discussions with teens show that they have waning enthusiasm for Facebook: They dislike the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful “drama,” but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing.
A new documentary film about John Coltrane proposes that Philadelphia is the city of a Brotherly Love Supreme.
The legendary jazz saxophone player lived in Philadelphia through most of the 1950s, nurturing the artist toward a breakthrough that sent bebop on a spiritual path.
"Coltrane’s Philadelphia," a 28-minute documentary produced by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, will premiere Wednesday evening at the International House in University City. WHYY contributed editing facilities to the project.
Take a hard blow to the head diving for that soccer ball? Well, gone are the days of smelling salts and getting right back on the field.
A few years ago, New Jersey enacted a law mandating student athletes with a suspected concussion get medical clearance before being allowed to return to play.
Now, the Princeton school district has gone a step further, requiring headgear for all middle and high school soccer, field hockey and lacrosse players.
While parents and coaches hope that will reduce the risk for concussions, some sports experts aren’t convinced it will help.
Tim Quinn, president of Princeton’s school board, said nothing can totally prevent a concussion from happening, “but if we can minimize the effect of any sort of head injury, I think that’s a good thing. I think what we’re doing here is looking out for the best interests of our athletes.”
Princeton’s school board unanimously approved the new headgear following a strong recommendation from the district’s athletic director. As far as Quinn knows, Princeton is the only district in the state to have such a policy. The district will pay for the SG360 headgear, which runs about $60 in retail.
Effectiveness of headgear questioned
But the evidence behind the headgear isn’t all there, according to Joanna Boyd, a concussion specialist at the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey.
Boyd, who “can’t say anything negative about a school district protecting their athletes in the very best way that they can,” added that there’s no proof headgear of any kind can prevent concussions. She said there’s yet to be any strong evidence one way or another as to whether this kind of headgear can minimize the effects of any hit to the head.
"The damage created by that is going to depend on so many other environmental factors," said Boyd. "It’s the speed, it’s the angle, it’s the kind of hit it is."
Others worry widespread use of headgear in sports such as soccer and lacrosse might have unintended consequences.
"I’m concerned that the players who are better padded will be more emboldened to do things they never would have thought to do before," said Marc Block, a longtime soccer referee in South Jersey. "In much the same way that my sister referees women’s lacrosse, and as soon as they told everyone to start wearing those metal eye cages, the number of sticks to the head went up very quickly."
After reviewing the research thoroughly, Quinn said the district is confident in its decision.
"If this helps one kid minimize an injury, then I think that it’s well worth it," he said.
Quinn also thinks Princeton may be ahead of the game, so to speak, when it comes to preventing head injuries. As a longtime cyclist, Quinn can remember when people first resisted helmets in that sport.
"I’ve had my fair share of crashes and broken collar bones, and I’ve been hit by a car," said Quinn. "And I’ve been grateful to have had that protection in place. So I think we’re doing the right thing here."
Quinn said he has yet to hear any objections from students or parents. Anyone other than sixth-graders can also opt out of wearing the headgear, with parental permission, this first year.