Delaware Chatter 2014



Microblog: SAFE monitors and responds to Delaware news and issues as reported by the News Journal, our comments in red. To keep up with Delaware Chatter and other important activity, follow SAFE on Facebook and Twitter.

12/31/14A, Feds: Nearly 9,000 Delawareans pick Obamacare insurance plan; Report illustrates dramatic increase from previous year, Jen Rini – A year ago this time, in large part due to malfunctions in the government’s website rollout, fewer than 800 Delawareans had chosen “an Obamacare insurance plan” through the nation’s online health[care] insurance marketplace.” But now the enrollment is up to 8,956 (of whom 44% reenrolled and 56% picked a plan for the first time), with 7,433 (83%) of these people being “eligible for government subsidies.” Rita Landgraf, who heads the DE Department of Health and Social Services is quoted as being “thrilled by this level of activity in the first month.” Similar results are being reported across the US, with about 3.4 million people so far using the GovCare platform to find healthcare insurance. Open enrollment through the marketplace will continue through Feb. 15. One could quibble with the headline for two reasons: Is it realistic to view Delawareans as “picking” a GovCare insurance plan when signup is mandated (with a fine for noncompliance and no permissible alternative)? Also, who is going to pay for those subsidies, which are being provided to bribe people to sign up for government approved healthcare insurance?

12/31/14B, Economic facts get in the way, Eugene Robinson
– Buoyed by recently improving economic results, the writer paints a picture of Republican candidates being deprived of their one credible talking point for future elections. Thus, remember how Mitt Romney “presented himself as the consummate job-creator and promised to reduce unemployment to 6 percent by the end of his first term.” Well, gee whiz, the current rate is down to 5.8% so “Obama beat him by two full years.” Now true, “the percentage of Americans participating in the workforce has declined, but this has to do with long-term demographic and social trends beyond any president’s control.” Also, “middle-class incomes have been flat, despite a recent uptick in wages,” but never mind because “gasoline prices have plummeted to an average of $2.29 a gallon nationwide, according to AAA.” In short, the “numbers we’re seeing now” make former “charges of incompetence and/or socialism untenable.” Even GovCare “turned out not to be the job-killer that critics imagined. All it has done, aside from making it possible for millions of uninsured Americans to get coverage, is help hold down the cost of medical care, which is rising at its slowest rate in decades.” No doubt GOP candidates will continue “give-no-quarter attacks” on the president’s economic record in the primaries, but “pretending that up is down won’t cut it” in the general election against a capable Democratic candidate, e.g., Hillary Clinton “if she decides to run.” Meanwhile, the Republican leadership in Congress will confront a stark choice: (1) “collaborate with Obama on issues such as tax reform, infrastructure and the minimum wage in an attempt to further boost the economy,” or (2) “grumble on the sidelines, giving the impression they are rooting against the country’s success”? We think the economic outlook is a good deal less favorable than this selective description suggests, and, more importantly, that such improvement as has taken place since 2009 has come in spite of – rather than because of – the president’s policies. Also, if things are so rosy, why did the president’s party fare so poorly in the mid-term elections?

12/31/14C, Focusing on 2014’s hardest lesson – Referring again to the current controversy about how to fix six “Priority Schools” in Wilmington, this editorial suggests that the debate will continue in 2015, but that this time “the conversation changed” somewhat. Now the focus seems to be “the effects of poverty” as opposed to “the technocratic regime of testing and federal funding.” Also note “two legal efforts”: (a) DE ACLU request for federal action against charter schools for supposedly resegregating Wilmington inner city schools, and (b) lawsuit to prevent the state from closing the Moyer Academy’s predominantly minority charter school that has failed to make academic progress. Taken together, these developments “have helped force the issue out in the open. We will not be able to move forward on education in 2015 without an honest discussion of poverty and schools.” And also the related issue of crime, which despite statistics showing drug-related crimes affect the entire population results in shooting, robberies and turf warfare that “do most of their damage on poor people.” And in the end, “the primary cause is a lack of jobs” resulting in “a vicious circle: poverty contributes to poor education outcomes; a lack of skills limits job prospects; a poor work future leads to crime opportunities and so on.” So how to disrupt the circle. Governor Markell is said to be “pushing for higher quality pre-schooling training for all children” so that poor children will not “come to kindergarten and first grade unprepared for the classroom,” in hopes that “these children will do better in the early grades [and] this personal success will carry over into later schooling.” And efforts of the state government, Del Tech, and a host of businesses developing training programs to help non-college bound students flourish in the world of work “will grow in importance as we move through the New Year” although “a few relatively simple programs cannot erase poverty or end crime.” Could it be that the real problem is the decline of the family as the basic unit of social development, which in turn has been fostered by the government’s “war on poverty”? If people do not take responsibility for their own lives, all the government programs in the world will be for naught!
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12/29/14, Where does the buck stop in schools? – Taking off from the current controversy over how to fix six “Priority Schools” in Wilmington, this NJ editorial makes an interesting point. Who, exactly, is in charge – the feds, the state government, school board, local superintendent, or school principal? “For much of the time, the answer is ‘all of them.’ That translates into a more realistic answer: ‘None of them.’ The best way to sum up the situation is to ask: ‘Where does the buck stop?’ At the moment, the buck appears to stop with the teachers – by default. They naturally do not like it for the simple reason that they do not set the policy they are charged with carrying out.” Ever since the feds started getting involved in education, the editorial goes on to acknowledge, “each dollar of aid is closely followed by another rule. Critics now complain that the federal government is acting like a national board of education.” In effect, the federal government “is setting goal, offering money and attaching strings. These initiatives have done a lot of good even though the victories were incomplete. However, the bureaucratic morass that came with them created different problems. [And while] Local control avoided that morass, [it] also failed to stop discrimination based on race, gender or physical and developmental ability.” So in conclusion, it’s essential to agree about “the education chain of command” and also “deal with racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity as well as extremes of economic inequality.” Fiddle-de-de! Could someone please explain why the government (especially at the federal level) should be expected to address such issues, as opposed to the teachers, parents and students who are directly involved? What the educational system needs is options and choice, not a monolithic system geared to the lowest common denominator.
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12/20/14, Report: Del. schools grow more segregated; Early progress on racial balance reverses course, Matthew Albright It’s been said that bad ideas are never truly defeated, and here’s evidence to support this conclusion. According to a UCLA Civil Rights Project that was released yesterday, Delaware – and Wilmington in particular – is rapidly returning to a system in which far more black and Latino students attend separate schools than their white cohorts. “Delaware is one of the states that went further in the desegregation process than almost any place in the country, but [it] has sadly reversed that progress in the past decades. The report’s findings reportedly reinforce the claims of many Wilmington leaders and advocates who have called for changes to how students are assigned to schools. What’s happened here is that a previous desegregation order that forced bussing of students between Wilmington and suburban school districts was lifted in [1995] and the pendulum has swung back a bit in the direction of less racially homogenous school populations. Appalled, the report’s authors claim that it will be “increasingly urgent for Delaware to find ways to desegregate schools again as its population continues to change, adding more minorities, especially Latinos.” Concrete proposals: (1) Redraw attendance zones to reverse the effects of the Neighborhood Schools Act. (2) Adopt school district policies to encourage diverse schools. (3) Push for more low-income housing in communities to desegregate neighborhoods. Some of us remember the era of court-mandated bussing, which had some awful results, and would not support repeating this ill-advised experiment. Collateral damage, SAFE Newsletter, Fall 2012.
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12/19/14A, State celebrates national park; Federal designation marks end of years-long effort, Jonathan Starkey – What the designation of a hodge-podge of historical areas around the state as a national park had to do with a $577 billion authorization bill is anyone’s guess, but it happened and Delaware political leaders such as Senator Tom Carper, Representative John Carney, and Governor Jack Markell seemed pleased as punch. At least there wasn’t any funding for the “park” in the bill, which reportedly “builds on the designation of Delaware’s First State National Monument last year.” This proposal is basically a waste of taxpayer money, and it should never have been approved – especially in such an underhanded way.

12/19/14B, Charter fates: Reach to close, Gateway spared, Matthew Albright – Reach Academy for Girls was ordered closed before, but the edict was delayed by a lawsuit claiming discrimination because an all boys charter school was being allowed to stay open. This time it may have reached the end of the road, at least as far as the state Department of Education is concerned. DOE will allow Gateway Lab School (for students with disabilities) to stay open for now, but with “an ultimatum that it quickly improve test scores or face closure.” Family Foundations Academy is also on the chopping block due to “potentially serious allegations of financial mismanagement,” but it was said regulators need more time to review the allegations so nothing will happen for now.

12/19/14C, The takeover madness that threatens our schools, [state Representative] John Kowalko – This column was sparked by a recent news story: State says most priority school principals must go, 12/16/14B. The writer decries “the presumptuous attitude of this administration and the DOE that they have unilateral authority over local school districts’ personnel issues.” In fact, the principals of the two schools in question (Stubbs and Bancroft in the Christiana School District) “presided over measurable achievements at these schools” as previously attested to by the DOE, UD and the Delaware Academy of School Leadership. Accordingly, “there is an obvious lack of objectivity and a major disregard for a factual assessment” by DOE. “Maligning the performance of these dedicated school leaders with arbitrarily contrived performance perspectives is an audacious and outrageous attempt to continue denigrating Delaware public education and ignores the real needs of our inner-city children.” What we are seeing playing out here is “a propensity for a corporatist takeover of education with achievable goals of privatization and characterization of Delaware public schools.” Although some of Mr. Kowalko’s rhetoric seems overwrought, the DOE’s approach to this matter was high-handed and clumsy.
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12/18/14, Red Clay OK’s plan on priority schools, Matthew Albright – The Red Clay School Board voted to move forward on the three “priority schools” within its jurisdiction, albeit changing some of the ground rules that had been proposed by the Delaware Department of Education. Rejected were paying a minimum salary of $160K for each school leader and forcing every teacher in these schools to reapply for their jobs. However, Red Clay did commit to finding “the best possible principal” for each of these schools and allowing them to make big changes including “extending the school day, reconfiguring their school classes, and changing their own budgets.” DOE officials indicated that they were generally satisfied.
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12/17/14A, Delaware gets $35M grant to test healthcare plan, Beth Miller & Jen Rini – Federal officials are handing out “a $665 million pot of money meant to improve the quality of care and lower costs.” Of this amount, Delaware got a $35M grant to test its healthcare innovation plan. And Wayne Smith, CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association is quoted that “this is a big win for Delaware – a lot of money for a small state.” A 4-year agenda is envisioned including “lowering healthcare costs so they align with natural gross domestic product growth, developing 10 healthy neighborhoods throughout the state and establishing that 80 percent of healthcare costs are value-based.” Currently, Delaware spends $8 billion on healthcare each year – 25 percent more per capita than the national average – with no signs of above average results. Dr. Christopher Casscells who reviews healthcare policies for CRI suggested that the grant money is nice but the healthcare system won’t be improved without tort reform and a change in the incentives for patients and doctors, which have led to wasteful, often ineffective medical treatment. Smith responds that “incentive work is under way in the Delaware Health Innovation Center’s payment model committee,” and that while tort reform is a nice idea, it is not likely to be implemented any time soon. Sorry, but top-down reform, driven by healthcare bureaucrats is almost guaranteed to fail unless it leads to healthcare rationing – at which point the cost of healthcare may be held down but quality tanks.

12/17/14B, Delaware politicians quoted re executive action on immigration “reform” – (A) Senator Tom Carper is characterized in a news story by Nicole Gaudiano as criticizing the president, but his reported comments are basically along the lines that things could have been handled more smoothly. Thus, Carper reportedly supports “Obama’s Nov. 20 order protecting up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation,” but “tried to persuade the administration that Congress ‘could get a whole lot more done’ during the lame-duck session if the order’s Nov. 20 rollout were postponed until Christmas Eve.” However, “I just think the president was hell-bent to do it [executive action] *** [he] thought it was the right thing to do and went ahead.” (B) State Sen. Ernie Lopez (R-Lewes) authored a Delaware Voice column along the lines that the president’s actions will exacerbate “the continued inability of the executive and the legislative branches to lay down their arms and work together towards making government work for the people.” By choosing to “lead alone,” says Lopez, the president “tossed one of the most meaningful opportunities for bipartisan public policymaking in a generation to the trash heap.” Granted that the House failed to “even craft a bill,” the upcoming “crafting of immigration reform through the president’s executive order” will stifle public debate that might otherwise have helped to invest both sides in the success of the resulting decisions. Does either of these observers realize that what the president did was not simply maladroit; it was unconstitutional and therefore illegal?
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12/16/14A, IT provider signs on at STAR Campus: Fast-growing SevOne expects to employ 300, William McMichael – SevOne, described as “one of the fastest-growing technology companies in North America” and “Delaware-based” has signed a 13-year lease for 50K square feet of office space at the UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research Campus. Judging from the quotes by representatives of UD, state government, and landlord Delle Donne, all concerned are extremely pleased. As for what exactly SevOne does, its website reportedly indicates that “companies such as Verizon Wireless, Comcast, NASDAQ and Morgan Stanley rely on SevOne to keep their information technology infrastructures humming.” Also, Bain Capital has invested $150M in the firm, and SevOne was founded by two UD graduates.

12/16/14B, State says most priority school principals must go, Matthew Albright – A shortened name for the six substandard schools that the Department of Education wants overhauled has been coined, “priority schools.” Initially, all of the principals were supposed to be replaced (in accordance with both federal rules and state law when a school is targeted for a “turnaround” model), but the school boards involved are resisting and it sounds like some exceptions are likely. Supporters of the incumbents point out that there has been a lot of administrative turnover in these schools, which makes it difficult to make plans for improvement. Also, “many in the school communities feel the state is blaming school staff for low [test] scores when they are tasked with bringing up students who often start far behind academically and who face huge hurdles outside of school.”
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12/9/14, A new class for park sites; Congress may graduate state’s monument into the class of Park Service historical sites, Jonathan Starkey – One might wonder if this report deserved a front page headline, but in any case the upbeat spin that it is given – “Delaware appears set to get a national park upgrade” - seems inappropriate. What a coincidence that “buried 1,200 pages into a defense spending bill drafted to pay for the war against ISIS is a designation for the First State National Historical Park . . . [and] new sites could be added to the park through preservation easements . . . Holy Trinity (Old Swede’s) Church in Wilmington, the John Dickinson Plantation near Dover, [etc.].” And look at the quote attributed to Senator Tom Carper: “What we have here is a great history story, a great tale to tell from one end of the state to the other.” Whatever the merits of the proposed “national park” for Delaware, and frankly we have been underwhelmed from the start, this kind of legislative shenanigans (hiding pork in defense bills) is not clever, it is shameful. No wonder people are losing faith in our political leaders.
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12/7/14, Why do we let the media ignore their mistakes? Ted Kaufman – The writer lauds a report of the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), which supposedly put to rest all the stories about Benghazi being a scandal, etc. The report is said to have established, among other things, that mistaken statements in the aftermath of the attack were the result of intelligence analyst mistakes versus fibbing by Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, or the president. Kaufman goes on to ridicule previous statements to the effect that Benghazi would be the current president’s Watergate, etc. So will the critics shut up now, and maybe even apologize? Well, no, as evidenced by Senator Lindsey Graham’s dismissive statement about the report, and “one final House committee is in the process of spending a few million more dollars to go over the same ground that the previous six reports have covered.” So, clearly the media should step up to the plate and make clear that the claims of malfeasance in high office have been proven false. Sorry, but the House Intelligence report left some key questions about Benghazi unanswered, notably why an anti-Muslim video was repeatedly cited as an explanation for what had happened – which was not a spontaneous protest, but a well coordinated and preplanned terrorist attack – when everyone in a position of authority knew otherwise. Stay tuned for the findings of the special investigation being led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), which we believe may finally provide some real answers.
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12/4/14A, ACLU [and Community Legal Aid Society]: Charter schools cause resegregation; Groups say system discriminates against minorities, Matthew Albright – ACLU & CLAS have lodged a complaint with the US Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. They claim that ¾ of charter schools are “racially identifiable” (mostly white or mostly minority) and that the charters serving minorities are vastly underperforming those serving more affluent white students. Also, charters are taking the cream of the crop while leaving the public schools with a disproportionate number of kids who are minorities, low economic status, or disabled. They object to special entrance requirements such as entrance exams, parent essays, mandatory parental involvement, and required fees and uniforms, which supposedly screen out “undesirables.” To correct the alleged problems, they want a moratorium on new charters until a new desegregation plan is in place, a random lottery system for all charter admissions, and a requirement that class sizes at traditional schools be not larger than at charter schools, assurances that every charter is “completely free,” and extra funding for [public?] schools serving minority, special needs and low-income students. Particular targets: Charter School of Wilmington, less than 6% of students are black; Sussex Academy in Georgetown (3% black, 7% Hispanic). It is said to be inappropriate for taxpayer money to be used “to fund select schools that only some children can attend.” Address the real Del. School problem – In a related editorial, the NJ suggests that the demand for a new desegregation plan “is drastic and probably would not solve the problem it attempts to fix.” The complainants “did not account for the fact,” it’s stated, that parents in all the charters [including those predominantly serving minorities] chose to send their children there. Ignores legitimacy of catering to special interests, and also the East Side Charter and Kuumba Academy success stories with low income, predominantly minority children. Charters aren’t the real problem, so “we should address the poverty that affects so many of these children. Supply all schools with the tools, the staff and the facilities to solve the real cause.” We think the real problem is that the public schools have atrophied due to a lack of choice and competition, and the essence of the complaint is to preserve the status quo (mediocrity for all).

12/4/14B, Plan cuts greenhouse gas emissions; Another evaluates building in areas with future flooding, Molly Murray – Did you know there was a Governor’s Cabinet Committee on Climate and Resiliency at work over the past year? Well, there was, and it has now sent two proposals to the governor. FIRST: continued reduction in state levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which according to this report “has been identified as an important trigger of global climate change.” The goal would be a 30% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, which might among other things require “improved energy efficiency in buildings and homes.” Strides have already been made through RGGI, universal recycling, and forest buffers. DEDO Secretary Alan Levin expressed concern that if other states don’t follow suit, the result for Delaware “could be detrimental in terms of attracting business.” He fails to mention that if the US cuts carbon emissions while the developing nations don’t, all of the states will be penalized. SECOND: Use best construction strategies to avoid future problems with flooding either by elevating structures or taking other steps to ensure they are not damaged. Supposedly, it’s not enough for state funded construction to be built to federal flood standards since “the federally subsidized insurance program” doesn’t take into account “the full brunt of future sea level rise, increased intensity of coastal storms or coastal erosion.” The issue, of course, is the flood maps that will be used and the magnitude of sea level rise that will be assumed. Lots of money could be wasted by exaggerating the magnitude of this problem, and every effort will be made to pass the cost on to property owners.

12/2/14, Markell promotes Jurden, Esteban Parra – Judge Jan Jurden has been nominated to head Superior Court. She must be confirmed by the state Senate during its Dec. 16 special session. “Jurden recently attracted controversy because of a probationary sentence she handed down in 2008 in a child abuse case involving a du Pont heir that recently came to light.”
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11/28/14, The immigration argument everyone is currently ignoring, [Harvard Law professor] Cass Sunstein – The writer argues that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) provided a defensible opinion to support the president’s executive order re the deportation of illegal immigrants. (1) Impractical to deport all of the approximately “11.3 million undocumented aliens” in this country as “Congress has given the executive branch enough resources to remove fewer than 400,000 of them,” so the Department of Homeland Security necessarily “has to make choices;” (2) Congress has given “explicit direction to ‘prioritize the identification and removal of aliens convicted of a crime by the severity of that crime” and the choices made by DHS are said to be consistent with these instructions; (3) “for several decades, the executive branch has created deferred-action programs for specified categories of aliens” so the latest order is nothing new; and (4) OLC concluded that DHS “can confer deferred action status [not amnesty, please] on parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents” which “can be seen as analogous to an exercise of prosecutorial discretion.” Moreover, the OLC did not say DHS “could create a deferred-action plan whenever and on whatever grounds it (or the president) might like.” So while “fair questions” can certainly be raised about the OLC’s analysis, “those who are making noisy claims about illegality and overreaching are obliged to give a close reading to what the OLC had to say.” Nice try, but the OLC opinion was just a whitewash. Compare “Obama’s immigration enablers, David Rivkin & Elizabeth Price Foley, Wall Street Journal, 11/24/14 (link not available). (1) Executive order does not simply prioritize, “it rewrites existing law” by saying illegal immigrants won’t be deported if they meet the president’s broad criteria and do not pose a threat; (2) this plan does not involve the exercise of prosecutorial (meaning case-by-case) discretion because essentially all of the illegal immigrants who apply for non-deportable status will be automatically approved; (3) deferred deportation in the past has been for narrow categories authorized by Congress versus broad new categories authorized by the president; (4) President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 Family Fairness Policy was consistent with then existing statutes; moreover, it granted a right of “voluntary departure” for up to one year versus deferred deportation; and (5) OLC ignored the costs involved for states affected by the president’s order and the injury to state sovereignty. “While federal immigration law can preempt state power, there can be no [valid] preemption when a president exceeds his constitutional authority by rewriting the law.”
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11/27/14A, EPA’s new smog proposal adds cost, but offers hope, Jeff Montgomery – A just published EPA proposal would reduce ozone, which is described as “a particular problem for the elderly, the very young, and those with asthma or other respiratory problems.” The original national goal was 125 parts per billion hourly limit for ozone; now the EPA is proposing “a still-to-be-determined 65 ppb to 70 ppb,” maybe even drop it to 60 ppb. DNREC secretary David Small would like to know what the “final target” is, says “it’s going to mean more work” because “we’ve done the easy things” already. The EPA concedes that there is some compliance cost involved, e.g., about $3.9 billion (one time or annual) nationally for a 70 ppb standard by their reckoning, or $15B for a 65 ppb standard. Not to worry, however, because “the value of avoided asthma attacks, illnesses, lost productivity and other health benefits would prove three times greater.” And former DNREC secretary Colin O’Mara, now president of the National Wildlife Federation, exults that a toughened ozone standard plus control of interstate pollution drift could “give up the potential to have health[y] air in all parts of Delaware by the end of the decade.” Considering “the impact of air quality on bird populations or other wildlife and also the deposition of pollution onto waterways, the ecological benefits of this rule can’t be overstated.” Less favorable assessments are attributed to House Speaker John Boehner (could cost the average family $1,500 per year and destroy “millions of jobs”) & Scott Segal, an environmental policy expert with Bracewell & Giuliani, an international law firm (says proposed targets are near natural background levels in some parts of the country, and would provide “little real benefit”). Public hearings and a 90-day federal comment period are planned. We doubt the EPA cares what the economic effect of the rule would be, and their health benefit claims – which have been rolled out again and again for successive EPA proposals without regard to the law of diminishing returns or the near certainty of double counting – should be taken with a grain of salt. If the debate is set up in simplistic terms of JOBS versus HEALTH, however the GOP isn’t likely to win it.

11/27/14B, Charter schools not as big downstate, Matthew Albright – There’s one new charter, First State Military Academy, which is scheduled to open in Clayton [near Smyrna] next fall. Scott Kidner is the board president, and the theme will be to use military discipline and structure to eliminate distractions. That will bring the approved charter count to 6 in Kent County, one in Sussex County, and over 20 in New Castle County. Reasons suggested: the downstate area is less urban, and there is less dissatisfaction with the public school system. Still, charter advocates will keep at it on the theory that everyone deserves a choice in where their children go to school.
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11/18/14, Carper’s vote angers enviros, Nicole Gaudiano – The big news is that Senator Tom Carper has said he will vote “aye” on a bill to approve the Keystone pipeline. (Rep. John Carney voted against the bill in the House; Sen. Chris Coons plans to vote against it in the Senate.) His rationale: Make it easier to work with Republicans on other energy-related bills, State Dept. report said there wouldn’t be much environmental harm, and six years to study the proposal is getting to be a bit much. Also, the bill is coming back next year anyway, possibly in more extreme form, when GOP will have Senate majority. And if Sen. Mary Landrieu is helped in the runoff election in Louisiana, that would be “fine.” 15 environmental activists protested outside Carper’s office in Wilmington on Monday, and climate activist Bill McKibben is quoted as calling the senator a “fake.” We doubt the bill will get 60 votes in the current Senate, and even if it does the president may veto it (on grounds that he is the one who should make the decision after review process has been completed). Still, Senator Carper’s support for this bill is commendable.
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11/17/14, Roadways do not come without a price – Editorial endorses idea of raising gas tax as “a number of senators and representatives, including Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware” want to do, thereby “[taking] advantage of the lame-duck members who will be out of Congress by the end of the year, and the dropping price of gasoline.” The proposal “to raise the tax by one penny a quarter for four years” is “unlikely to get by House Republicans,” however, leaving the problem that “roads do not pay for themselves” unsolved. Raise the gas tax, impose tolls, have a vehicle mile tax such as several states are experimenting with, or whatever, but “whether we like it or not, everyone who uses the roads will have to pay more.” And please, no more phony spending cuts, like “pension smoothing,” as a fake way to pay for transfers of general revenues to the highway trust fund.

11/16/14, Carper is optimistic on gas-tax hike, Melissa Nann Burke – It’s not exactly news that Senator Tom Carper is in favor of raising the gas tax, he’s been pushing the idea for years. His current proposal is to raise the 18.4¢ tax on gasoline and the 24.4¢ tax on diesel to 30.4¢ for gasoline and 44.4¢ for diesel over the next 4 years and then index the higher rates for inflation. In addition to the need for raising more revenue to cover road and bridge improvements, Carper argues that (1) with gas prices down so much, this is a perfect time to raise the tax, and (2) “consumers, frankly, wouldn’t notice.” And he has hopes of sliding such a tax increase through in the lame duck session, rather than leaving the matter to be dealt with by the new Congress in which Republicans will control both houses and might not see their way clear to “do the right thing.” It’s understood that Republicans “want to offset any hike with spending cuts elsewhere,” although not necessarily on a dollar-for-dollar basis, whereas “the Obama administration wants to fix the problem [cover more spending for roads and bridges] by closing corporate tax loopholes.” Gas tax rates may need to be raised at some point, although we’re not clear why the differential between gasoline and diesel should be widened as proposed, but we do not approve of trying to sneak an increase through during the lame duck session.
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11/13/14, Will Congress fix Medicare during the lame-duck session? Stephen Permut, MD (chair-elect of AMA Board of Trustees, past president of DE Medical Society)
– According to the writer, a bipartisan framework for modernizing the Medicare payment system offers “America’s best hope for fixing the beleaguered Medicare [program].” He urges that it be adopted by both houses of Congress between now and yearend, else the proposal would have to be started all over again in the next Congress with months of bipartisan and bicameral work to get back to the “broad consensus” that has presently been achieved. Not only are the proposed reforms “the fiscally responsible thing to do,” but they would “assure access to care for Medicare recipients.” The basic change would be to repeal the “flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) that has been a failure since it was first enacted” and forces Congress to enact “patches” to prevent it from being applied to cut rates for physician services. Short answer to the title question: NO. A few things must be done in the lame-duck session, such as extending spending authority and authorizing military action against the Islamic State that is already in progress, but this isn’t one of them. Sounds like the AMA is trying to pull a fast one by getting a deal done before the new Congress takes over.
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11/12/14A, Civic activist suggests Delaware AG’s office should investigate disposition of hazardous sulfur waste – Once again appearing on the Rick Jensen show, John Nichols had a suggestion for Matt Denn, the incoming attorney general. Under DNREC regulations, material data safety sheets are required for industrial installations in the protected Coastal Zone. No such information was publicly available for the Bloom Energy fuel cell power plant in the CZ, however, suggesting that DNREC either didn’t obtain the sheets or chose to ignore them. It’s known that hazardous sulfur waste is removed from the fuel cells into “sulfur tanks,” which tanks must then be removed from the premises, but no one seems to know how the disposal of sulfur waste is being handled. An investigation should be conducted to determine (1) why the DNREC regulations were not followed before a permit was granted, and (2) whether ongoing operations of the power plant comply with all applicable legal requirements.

11/12/14B, Internet regulation would be harmful
– This editorial focuses on the president’s just declared support for “net neutrality” and concludes that “the best bet is to leave the Internet alone” because “a light regulatory touch” has “served the nation well.” Let the big firms in the industry, e.g., Netflix and Verizon, “work it out in the market.” Amen!

11/11/14A, Conversion in Claymont, Jeff Montgomery – Here’s a front-page headline story that we did not see coming. St. Louis- based Commercial Development Company (CDC) will reportedly lead a project to “buy, raze, clean up [and] then redevelop the shuttered Evraz Claymont Steel site” in Claymont, DE. The “voluntary cleanup plan” is subject to approval by DNREC, and there will supposedly be no CDC requests for state funds or even brownfield tax credits. What would the site be used for? This has yet to be determined, apparently, although there has been mention of “light manufacturing, bulk transfer or office park possibilities.” It’s also pledged that during the 2-1/2 year cleanup period, CDC will be “meeting with stakeholders in the community, informing all the stakeholders and basically making a collective decision about what is the best use [for the land] going forward.” Judging from previous NJ coverage, the Evraz shutdown decision was driven by environmental regulatory pressure, sparked in part by community opposition, plus relatively high DE taxes and electric power costs. Although CDC has engaged in similar deals around the country, time will tell whether this deal will prove to be a good business decision.

11/11/14B, “Charity care” cut by state for near-poor, Jen Rini & Beth Miller – State officials announced that Delawareans who are not eligible for Medicaid, including workers whose earnings put them above 138% of the federal poverty level and illegal immigrants, will lose healthcare coverage through the state’s Community Healthcare Access Program (CHAP) starting Feb. 1. About 7,000 patients are affected, of whom 6,000 are illegal immigrants. CHAP offers discounted medical services, and has been supported by donated time of healthcare providers plus $478K in tobacco settlement funds for the program this fiscal year. An alternative to CHAP will be offered on a case-by-case basis for “those who can prove they are ineligible for other plans or are exempt from the federal insurance mandate.” The basic rationale for charity care “going away,” as Rita Landgraf, DE secretary of Health & Social Services put it, is to support compliance with the individual healthcare insurance mandate under GovCare. As illegal immigrants are not eligible for GovCare, at least technically, they should not be affected.
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11/9/14, Since when did Americans lose respect for solid science? Ted Kaufman – Ho hum, another column from former Senator Kaufman about global warming. His last column on this subject (June 29) focused on alleged melting of the Antarctic ice cap, rising sea levels, “super storm” Sandy, etc. This time the only specific threat mentioned is an unexplained warning by the US Navy that “climate change [rather than the growing Chinese navy] will be the biggest new security threat” in the Pacific. But the prime thrust of both columns is to bemoan the American public’s tendency to ignore (1) the official statements of “nearly 200 scientific organizations around the world” that “climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activity,” and (2) the asserted fact that “over 97 percent of all peer-reviewed articles by climate scientists agree about the human causes of global warming.” How can so many people be so wrong, “turning their backs on the overwhelming majority of scientists and scientific organizations?” One explanation offered is that a “question authority” and be suspicious of “elites” mentality is at work. Another is “the more radical theory of some diehard deniers that there is somehow a gigantic worldwide conspiracy by left-wing elites to promote [the idea of] climate change in order to foster government incursions on our freedom.” Kaufman fails to mention the lack of evidence that global warming is not only continuing, perhaps accelerating, due to human burning of fossil fuels, but represents a dire threat that can only be averted by a disruptive and costly makeover of the world’s energy systems. Consider these points: (1) a global warming trend has stopped since 1998, rather than accelerating, and global warming advocates are scrambling to come up with an explanation; (2) the cost of proposed policy changes, such as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, are soothingly obfuscated instead of being acknowledged; and (3) global warming “science” has been blatantly politicized. Big Green’s lethal agenda, Paul Driessen, netrightdaily.com, 7/14/14.
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11/8/14, A1/A9, Is Biden dealmaker in next Congress? GOP control of Senate will call for cooperation, Nicole Gaudiano – This story suggests that presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need someone to negotiate with if the Senate is going to get any work done, as 60+ votes will continue to be needed to avert filibusters on most bills and the Republicans will only have 53 votes or so. Vice President Joe Biden and McConnell have a history of negotiating deals, e.g., the fiscal cliff deal at the end of 2012. Normally, the choice would be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, but Reid and McConnell apparently don’t get along. OK, all true, but no one should think Biden will have any more authority than the president chooses to give him. Consider what happened at a Nov. 7 White House lunch for congressional leaders, when Biden asked a question that implied the president’s decision to issue an executive order on immigration policy before the end of the year might not be iron clad. “Mr. Obama gave him a look that ended that line of discussion, people said.” Wall Street Journal, 11/8/14 (link not available).
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11/6/14A, Political battle lines are already set – As this editorial notes, the president’s announcement at a post-elections press conference that he plans to proceed with an executive order on immigration “reform” whether Republicans like it or not dispelled hopes that the parties have heard the complaints of voters about gridlock and will spend some time working together to get things done for a change. “We are in,” concludes the editorial, “for a rough two years.” Indeed!

11/6/14B, Simpler becomes GOP poster child with win; Party faithful suggest he run for governor in 2016, Jonathan Starkey – As previously reported, Ken Simpler’s 10-point win for treasurer in Tuesday’s elections offered a ray of hope for the beleaguered DE Republican Party. However, as the reporter pointed out yesterday and again today, turnout at 36% was pretty low. It’s also suggested that the calls for Simpler to run for governor in 2016 may be a tad premature, if nothing else because Simpler pledged before the election that he would serve as treasurer for the full term if elected. A Simpler adviser says the pledge still stands. “It would be unwise to run for the treasurer’s office saying you want to be a ‘finance guy for a finance job’ and then say you don’t really mean that, you want to be governor.”

11/6/14C, isn’t it time to leave TDC alone? - The data center proposed for the UD Star Campus was rejected under pressure from environmentalists; it will most likely get built in some other state. Too bad for Delaware, where new investment and good jobs can be hard to come by. But somehow, as though to justify themselves, critics of The Data Center’s project can’t seem to stop talking about the matter. (I) Certain Newark residents were called out by Bob Chadwick of the NCC Chamber of Commerce and NCC Economic Development Council for protesting his reappointment to the Downtown Newark Partnership board. His alleged offense was supporting the data center and the jobs that this project would have created. Chadwick’s column on Nov. 4 did not fault the protestors for opposing the project, nor even lament the outcome, but he offered “no apology” for his support of the data center. “Whether or not I have an opportunity to continue to serve on the board of the DNP, I will relentlessly continue my efforts to attract jobs and create economic opportunity for the city of Newark, for the city of Wilmington, for New Castle County and for Delaware, without apology.” (II) Third consulting firm sues Data Centers for unpaid services, Melissa Nann Burke, 11/6/14 – Perhaps an earlier report of two vendor suits for an aggregate of $1.3 million was newsworthy, but why did the NJ feel it necessary to report a third legal claim against TDC for $18.6K plus interest and costs?
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11/4/14, Side A pushes for voting turnout by minority groups – The News Journal didn’t formally compare the candidates this year, as they made a show of doing in the 2012 elections, but they might as well have urged everyone to vote straight Democratic. A. This was the third day of lengthy stories about how Delaware is becoming more racially diverse, etc., with a fourth installment coming tomorrow. SUNDAY: By 2060, Delaware will be one of the most diverse states in the nation. And while that diversity will bring enrichment, there are old hurdles that could stubbornly remain. MONDAY: The African-American experience in Delaware. TUESDAY: Latinos are the fastest growing minority group. WEDNESDAY: Asians have settled and prospered in Delaware. B. In a story today on “Shame being used as new voting tactic,” Esteban Parra reports efforts to not simply exhort targeted people to vote but implicitly castigate people who don’t plan to do so. For example, the Delaware Democratic Party sent out “Voter Report Cards” last month to registered Democrats, comparing the record of voting participation in the last three general elections from “your current address” to comparable data for “your neighborhood.” C. As has become traditional (since 11/7/06), today’s editorial was “Be a hero, not a zero: Get out and vote,” featuring a poem by Ogden Nash. Once again (as in November 2012), the newspaper opined that “a large number of voters don’t bother [to vote]. Some do so out of indifference. Others, contempt.” There is nothing heroic about the mere act of voting, let alone about attempts to shame or bully targeted segments of the population into turning out. SAFE blog, Voter fraud is all too real, 11/3/14.

11/3/14, Election: What to look for in final hours; Campaigns start to get interesting as vote nears, Jonathan Starkey – Finally, in its final days, the elections in Delaware are showing “signs of life.” Senate candidate Kevin Wade purchased some airtime – starting on Halloween for an Ebola-themed ad “intended to scare up voters on Tuesday” - the husband of a Democratic state senator was caught stealing GOP campaign signs – Ken Simpler “could be first non-incumbent Republican to win a statewide race in 20 years if he upsets Democrat Sean Barney [for AG]” – Democrats brought Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to rally voters in Wilmington; he talked about “the down ballot races for treasurer and auditor” – Sharron Angle from Nevada (a tea party Republican) has spent $50K supporting Wade; her PAC has sent out newsletters and purchased TV ads – a PAC called “Foundation for Delaware’s Future has raised $145K from just nine donors, which were used to run ads critical of Ken Simpler’s opponent, e.g., an attempt to link him to the governor’s unsuccessful effort to raise the Delaware gas tax – Sean Barney has called the mailers dishonest as “they don’t accurately represent his plan for the treasurer’s office” – Democrats have also gotten in on the outside spending act – trailing badly in the legislature, Republicans have targeted several open seats in an attempt to erode Democratic majorities – Green Party candidate Catherine Damavandi has brought some life to the AG race by challenging his positions and pointing out that she’s the only candidate with prosecutorial experience; “it’s worth watching how many votes [she] can siphon away from [Democrat Matt] Denn.”

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11/2/14A, Booker visits to rally ground troops; New Jersey senator comes to Wilmington to aid Democratic get-out-the-vote effort, Adam Taylor – Large picture on page A2: “US Senator from New Jersey Cory Booker uses Democratic party volunteer Debbie Kardash’s iPhone to take a “selfie” plus three . . . Sen. Chris Coons with Governor Jack Markell in background. Sen. Booker came to Delaware to campaign for Democratic candidates running in Tuesday’s election.” The apparent impetus for this effort was that two GOP candidates in statewide races, Tom Wagner and Ken Simpler, are considered to have a chance of being elected. “I know Brenda [Mayrack] is going to win this election [for state auditor] if we [presumably meaning minority voters] vote,” Booker said. “I know Sean [Barney] is going to win this election [for state treasurer] if we vote.” And Wilmington Democratic Party Chairman Theo Gregory expressed concern about a series of state legislative races in which (reporter’s words) “longshot Republican challengers” are “battling longtime Democratic incumbents” in “a coordinated effort by the New Castle County GOP organization to make inroad into city races.” Gregory’s admonition was that “we just can’t let that happen.” Did anyone at this event say word one about the issues? And why shouldn’t Republicans reach out to “minority” voters, which represent a substantial and growing percentage of the overall electorate?

11/2/14B, Bloom employment in Newark misses benchmarks; No financial penalty yet; Levin says 900 jobs by 2016 is “attainable,” Aaron Nathans – Half of the allotted space on page B-1 is taken up by a picture of people who are apparently Bloom Energy employees. The caption reads: “An agreement with the state called for Bloom Energy to employ at least 300 full-time workers by September 2014, with $12 million spent on salaries from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30. Instead, Bloom had 208 employees and spent $9.35 million.” The number of employees target will increase to 600 by 9/30/15 and 900 by 9/30/16. However, there is no financial penalty provided in the contract for missing the target, nor will there be unless Bloom fails to make up any shortfalls by 2017. Company officials and Delaware Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin are quoted to the effect that the longer-term goals can be achieved. Also mentioned in the story is that the Bloom surcharge on Delmarva Power bills in November will total $3.2 million ($5.84 for a customer using 1,000 KWH of power).
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10/31/14, Gridlock awaits winner of US Senate rate, Jonathan Starkey & Jon Offredo – “Delaware is not a battleground state,” this story begins. However, even if Senator Chris Coons is reelected [a possibility belied by a subsequently cited Real Clear Politics average of polls showing Coons running 19 points ahead of Wade], “he could lose power” in Washington if “control of the Senate flips Republican.” In such a situation, according to the blindingly obvious pronouncements of several political analysts, Coons might be reduced to blocking Republican priorities unless his suggestions and amendments enjoyed some Republican support. Oh, by the way, Coons will face Republican Kevin Wade & Green Andrew Groff on the Nov. 4 ballot. The ensuing discussion focuses primarily on contrasting statements by Wade and Coons on Ebola containment, e.g., should there be a travel ban from the African countries where an outbreak has occurred or not, and the administration’s stance vis-à-vis the Islamic State. However, it is noted that the candidates have also debated “domestic issues, including how to best jumpstart job creation and how to address Washington gridlock.” Wade has accused Coons of voting the Democratic Party line, while the latter says he voted against the administration on reauthorization of the Patriot Act and FISA courts. Coons challenged Wade to identify areas in which he would vote against the Republican Party line, prompting Wade to say he would support raising the minimum wage because “I’ve heard people in Delaware express their concern about it.” Bottom line: Coons will win, his influence will be reduced, and gridlock in Washington will continue because a 60-vote supermajority is often necessary to pass legislation in the Senate. The Widener Law School debate between the three candidates was aired yesterday on WHYY. It seemed better handled than the Oct. 25 debate at the University of Debate, with a moderator who was not attempting to make himself the center of attention. Groff’s involvement in the debate reduced the amount of time available to the primary candidates, even though some of his views were rather interesting, and the questions asked (by Jonathan Starkey among others) were scattershot. We do not recall any questions about either the fiscal problem or energy policy, both crucial areas in which Coons and Wade are believed to have sharply differing views, nor was Coons pressed to explain why scores of bills passed by the Republican-controlled House have been denied debate and a vote in the Senate. Although more political gridlock may well be in the cards, it’s not a given that Senator Mitch McConnell would run the Senate, if he becomes majority leader, in the same hyper-partisan way as Senator Harry Reid. How election 2014 could create a Charlie Brown Congress, Francine Kiefer, Christian Science Monitor, 10/31/14. http://tinyurl.com/pqx536p

10/30/14A, A4, US Senate candidates spar on ISIS; Healthcare effectiveness also disputed, Jon Offredo – There was another senatorial debate, this one at Widener Law School between Sen. Chris Coons (D), Andrew Groff (G), and Kevin Wade (R), who are pictured standing at lectures facing the audience. A statement is gratuitously thrown in that the incumbent “is expected to win during a cycle that is proving to be much tighter for many of his Washington colleagues.” Why was it necessary to say this, rather than focusing on what the candidates said (or didn’t say)? Re military actions against the Islamic State, Senator Coons said the first order of business when the Senate returns to Washington should be to “ratify an authorization of military force” because “we are frankly beyond the War Powers Act notifications that we received from the president.” He also called the Islamic State “a real and present threat.” Wade called this group the most “brutal movement” since the Nazis, and said “we will have to lead the world in destroying ISIS and those who share that ideology.” Groff accused senators of playing politics by delaying a vote on the issue. The president would have had to call for a vote, if there was going to be one, and he didn’t do so. Congress cannot make the foreign and military plans of the United States; it’s simply not equipped to do more than react to the plans proposed by the president. Re GovCare, Coons pointed out that this legislation was enacted before he joined the Senate but proceeded to support it as “an upgrade” despite “a lot of work left to be done to improve it.” Wade said “we replaced something that worked for 90 percent of the people with something that failed the people” and “needs to be put down.” Did any of the candidates explain what they see as right or wrong, specifically, with GovCare? Other topics were reportedly discussed during the debate, including “gridlock in Washington,” but no details are provided. Whether due to the debate itself or the coverage thereof, readers are given no rational basis for choosing one or the other of the candidates.

10/30/14B, A5, Theft charge for Hall-Long’s husband, Jonathan Starkey & Jon Offredo – Middletown police responded yesterday to a Republican Party complaint that they had caught a man on camera, stealing generic GOP signs put up in the Middletown area in the early morning hours. The suspect was the husband of DE Senator Bethany Hall Long, who has been charged with misdemeanor theft (under $1,500). He declined to comment about the matter on advice of counsel, although the man taking the signs had claimed that taking the signs was legal in the video (2:18). http://tinyurl.com/n2vqy34 Party leaders on both sides condemned the sign taking, with Democratic Party State Chairman John Daniello calling such behavior “absolutely unacceptable,” albeit also saying that sign taking goes on “each campaign season.” The candidate issued a prepared statement apologizing for her husband’s removal of “a handful of signs” and saying “he turned them over to the Democratic Party and asked that they be returned to the Republican Party about six hours after they were taken up.” She claimed to have had no advance knowledge of the sign taking, and said she “was not aware that [her husband] had allowed his frustration over the campaign attacks to get the better of him” in a “race that has become tough and personal.” In an accompanying editorial (“Politics of stealing,” A8), the editors suggest that political campaigns “bring out the seventh-grader in some people” and that stealing signs “is either good-natured fun or a disguised form of political terrorism,” depending on whose signs are getting stolen. The Middletown police are commended for “[going] to the trouble” of issuing the warrant, and as for guilt or innocence “the criminal justice system will handle the matter.” Sign stealers will be reminded that the act carries potential consequences, not the least of which is embarrassment of the guilty party, and “we are therefore confident sign stealers will reform . . . for a day or so.”

10/29/14, A2, Carney coasting toward a 3rd term, Jonathan Starkey - Rep. John Carney, running for a third term in the House of Representatives, “is [reportedly] all but assured of keeping his seat.” And this may just be “a warm-up run for Carney,” who will likely run for governor in 2016 unless Beau Biden does so. The candidate claims to have worked across the political aisles with Republicans in Congress, e.g., co-sponsored a bill to exempt emerging companies from some requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Delaware Chatter, 3/27/12. As for Carney’s opponent, Rose Izzo has “skipped” two debates with Carney. In a recent written statement, she explained her objective in the race as “[making] sure my opponent gets fired.” We can’t fault the NJ’s prediction, but it is worth noting that the National Taxpayers Union gives Carney a “D” (25%) rating for fiscal responsibility based on his voting record in 2013 – only a bit higher than Senators Carper and Coons. http://tinyurl.com/nse9fr6
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10/28/14, A1/A5, GOP sees chance for statewide office win; Internal polls show Simpler ahead of Barney in treasurer’s race, Jonathan Starkey & Jon Offredo – According to this story, Democrats “find themselves in an unfamiliar position: anxious they could lose a statewide political office to the state’s down-and-out Republican Party.” The potential pickup would be the state treasurer’s office. Here’s a rundown on the two statewide races that are deemed competitive: Treasurer - Ken Simpler is a former hedge fund manager, whereas Sean Barney is a political operative with little finance experience. Barney has attempted to paint Simpler’s hedge fund experience as a negative, e.g., by linking it to flash trading, questions whether his opponent would “use the [treasurer’s] position to benefit those who need the most attention,” and has himself promised to attempt to set up savings accounts for every child in Delaware, which would reportedly [no details provided] be “seeded with $50 to $100 from private foundations.” Simpler says he wasn’t involved in high speed trading, but rather headed a private investment unit that traded in corporate debt, similar investments to those held by the state’s portfolio. He envisions using his financial experience to look for efficiencies and savings in the state’s cash management system, and getting the attention of people in Dover by pointing out ways to make money for the treasury vs. “the beauty or selflessness” of his ideas. Auditor - Republican Tom Wagner has held this office since 1989. As a member of the opposition party, says Wagner, he can be counted on to forthrightly challenge entrenched politicians and serve as a check on the ruling party. The same would not be true for his opponent. If reelected, he envisions a new thrust: auditing state vendor expenses to ensure taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. As for the funding levels of the auditor’s office, that’s set by the legislature – not by him. Democratic challenger Brenda Mayrack maintains, in effect, that Wagner has been around too long and is coasting. She blames him for not securing the funds to staff the office properly and asks, “what exactly is Tom Wagner doing to protect our tax dollars?” As auditor, says Mayrack, she would create a “fraud division,” provide better training for those involved in state contracts, and use technology to spot potential problems within the state’s books. Also, the auditor should conduct more performance audits to find savings in state government. Other races: Senator Chris Coons & Representative John Carney are “expected to cruise to re-election” and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn is “a heavy favorite to become the state’s next attorney general” despite his limited legal experience. Their opponents are not named, and there is no comment concerning the relevant issues. This story is based on interviews with the candidates and knowledgeable observers, campaign statements, etc. versus public debates. It provides a better picture of the candidates in these races than prior coverage, and there was a somewhat similar story for the AG’s race on October 25. The race that has been seriously slighted thus far, in our opinion, is the matchup between Chris Coons and Kevin Wade for Senate. In a year when control of the US Senate is at stake, it’s inappropriate to declare a winner in the Coons-Wade race without a meaningful rundown on the issues. For example, what would Coons propose to do about government deficits (he’s generally in favor of spending more money, but rarely suggests cutbacks in other areas), why does he write about Congress setting the strategy against Isis when the president has made clear that he doesn’t plan to seek congressional guidance in this matter, and how does he justify his down the line support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and other initiatives to combat the supposed problem of manmade global warming? In what areas would Wade and his party propose to do things differently than they are currently being done or are they simply running against a president whose popularity has cratered since the 2012 elections?

10/26/14A, A21/24, Two candidates for the US Senate offer views on two different crises – First, a nearly half-page infographic entitled “how do we prepare for crises.” The text begins with the days of George Washington, generalizes about what has happened since including specific mention of Pearl Harbor and 9/11, and then characterizes the present day as a time “when unexpected crises seem to be popping up all over the place: ISIS, Ebola, Ferguson, Ukraine, The list goes on.” Then the columns:
(A) Congress must give OK and pay for our new war, Senator Chris Coons – The president and Congress have “no more important duty than protecting [the US] and deciding when to use military force to do so.” Coons believes that ISIS poses a threat that must be dealt with, and basically endorses the president’s current airstrike and ground allies only strategy. However, he also says Congress “must fully debate and then pass a new authorization for military force” after promptly conducting “full hearings and briefings to seek answers to some of this conflict’s toughest questions” and ensuring alignment between “our strategy and resources committed” and this nation’s “interests and capabilities.” Such an enlightened approach is contrasted with the supposedly rash way in which the US was led into the Iraq war in 2003, and Coons neglects to mention that the prime reason for the ISIS crisis now was the rash withdrawal of all US forces in Iraq before the 2012 elections.
(B) Ebola crisis demands swift action by America, Kevin Wade - The main point of this column is that travel should be banned from areas of West Africa where Ebola is prevalent because this is a dangerous disease, we have a lot to learn about it, and in any case the virus could mutate. Quoted with approval is a World Health Organization statement that the spread of Ebola represents “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” We agree that the administration has not handled the Ebola threat very well, but an alarmist view is not warranted. There have been a handful of Ebola cases in the US thus far, only one death has resulted to our knowledge, and the public health officials and government officials are getting a little smarter than they seemed initially.
Since the candidates addressed different situations, there is no way to meaningfully compare their viewpoints or judgment. A more interesting question might have been “what do you regard as the most important international challenge facing this country over the next 2-3 years?” In response to such a question, one could plausibly suggest that Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons is far more dangerous than ISIS.

10/26/14B, A1/A7, Phantoms still bloat Delaware voter rolls; Purges in recent years cut 72,000 from registry, Melissa Nann Burke – As this article usefully points out, there are “tens of thousands of former residents and dead voters” on the voter rolls in Delaware. The basic reason is that people don’t notify the Board of elections of moves or deaths, and federal laws severely limit the discretion to drop apparent inactives from the list without affirmative proof as to their current address and status. Obviously, the situation creates opportunities for voter fraud, although according to the story “instances of fraud are rare.” Founded in 2012 with a grant from the Pew Foundation, an interstate consortium called ERIC is comparing public records from member states in an effort to identify discrepancies that can be investigated and lead to corrections. However, from the sound of things, this will only partially correct the problem. Under current Delaware law, as noted in the story, the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 elections was Oct. 11. Good thing the same day voter law was not passed this year, although we’re not sure that its supporters won’t try again.
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10/25/14, A1/A4, Crime focus of AG race; Candidates target community policing efforts against escalating violence, Jonathan Starkey – As AG, says Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, he would coordinate efforts to place more police officers from outside on foot patrols in high-crime areas of the city. For reasons the story subsequently explains, this “could be easier said than done.” Republican Ted Kittila “who is backed by the National Rifle Association and opposes more gun control efforts, wants to see stricter prosecution of gun crimes.” What Kittila has probably said, we would imagine, is that he favors enforcement of existing gun control laws as opposed to the enactment of new ones. Green candidate Catherine Damavandi envisions a new unit in the AG’s office to target career criminals. Independent Dave Graham promised to “work with community leaders.” Until the last five paragraphs on page A4, for those disposed to wade through the entire story, the positions of Denn’s principal opponent are ignored. Kittila emerged as the Republican candidate after efforts to draft former US Attorney Colm Connolly failed. He owns and operates a Wilmington law firm, the Greenhill Law Group, and suggests that his experience as a practicing lawyer is more relevant to the AG’s office than Denn’s principally political experience. He questions Denn’s plan to vacate the lt. governor’s office for the last two years of his elected term. And finally, if elected, Kittila said “he would continue work to track down child predators” and support “getting police officers out of their cars and on the street in high-crime areas.”
Note: readers are reminded that they can “read more about the candidates” in the News Journal’s 2014 Voters Guide
http://data.delawareonline.com/webapps/Voters_Guide/ Checking this reference on 10/26/14, we found the pictures and names of the four AG candidates were displayed, but with 9 days left until the elections none had provided a candidate statement.
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10/24/14, A6, Nuke plant expansion would bring jobs, risks; Public hearing speakers say study is premature, Jeff Montgomery – As previously reported, PSEG is studying the idea of building a new nuclear power plant near its existing facilities in New Jersey. However, the details – including what technology would be used – remain to be determined. PSEG Nuclear studies new river reactors, 8/5/14. No matter public meetings about the matter are already being called by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, including one in Delaware last night that was apparently arranged at the urging of the Delaware congressional delegation. Heaven help us if Delawareans had to cross the river and attend a hearing in New Jersey! Although its “official focus” was “only on where, and not what or when,” according to this report, the session “quickly turned into a series of statements for and against nuclear power.” No wonder the estimated cost of new nuclear plants has soared, e.g., “from an earlier $6 billion to $14 billion in recent years” according to a PSEG representative. Nuclear power does need to be regulated, but as we have said before there must be a better way to do it.

10/23/14, A3, Candidates spar in Dover: Barney keeps up attacks; drugs, energy among topics, Jonathan Starkey & Jon Offredo – Over half of the space allotted for this story is taken up by (A) The headlines, (B) a picture (“Sen. Chris Coons makes his opening remarks during candidates forum at Delaware State University Wednesday night. His opponents are Andrew Goff (center) and Kevin Wade (right).”), and (C) a quote of Sean Barney, the Democratic candidate for treasurer (“The challenge Delaware’s next treasurer faces is to restore accountability and transparency to the office”). Readers are informed that sixteen statewide candidates participated in the event (only some of whom are named), that “each candidate was offered a three-minute opening statement” and that there was “little opportunity for substantial debate on any single topic, or between candidates in any single race.” Selected comments on a drug usage and control are reported. Sen. Chris Coons said he supports the legalization of medical marijuana but not its recreational use. Rep. John Carney said this decision should be left up to the states, but that he does not support full legalization. Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, who is running for AG, said he would organize efforts to improve Delaware’s substance abuse treatment programs. Catherine Damavandi, Green Party candidate for AG, said such action would be up to the governor and administration, not the AG, and that Denn had been lieutenant governor for six years so why had he never done anything about it? Also, Sean Barney took a shot at the Republican candidate for treasurer, dismissing his hedge fund management experience as irrelevant and reportedly suggesting that “the hedge fund where Simpler worked was secretive and helped contribute to the 2008 financial collapse.” According to the story, “Simpler largely brushed aside the attacks, saying the treasurer’s office, which is tasked with helping manage a $2 billion investment portfolio, should be led by someone with money management experience.” The congressional candidates reportedly “discussed energy policy,” but no details are provided. Sounds like this was an uninspiring event, but the News Journal could have at least given a bit of coverage to Republican candidates (only one is quoted; several are not even named). Given the way in which it lauds voting (see the next entry), one would think the paper would make more of an effort to educate the public on what’s at stake.

10/23/14, A6, Voting is not to be limited – This editorial takes umbrage at comments of Kimberly Guilfoyle on The Five (Fox News panel show), which were taken to suggest (by the Huffington Post) that young women shouldn’t bother to vote because they haven’t shared the same “life experience” as older women. “Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, [or support a third party],” huffs the News Journal, “it’s your duty to vote if you meet the citizenship and age requirements. This obligation is enshrined in the Constitution as a protection of your right to participate in a democracy designed to show no preference based gender or if you are some ‘hot momma.’ That’s one of the coolest honors of being an American citizen.” Voting is a right, not a “duty” or “obligation.” If some eligible voters have not familiarized themselves with the issues and learned where the candidates stand, maybe they will do us all a favor by staying home on Election Day.

10/20/14, Delaware contemplates ways to make state dollars go further
– Several items in this morning’s News Journal involve public-private partnerships or analogous devices. We think the state might do better to make clear-cut choices as to what activities it is going to engage in and curtail wasteful programs so that available funds can be put to better use.

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Questions for the proposed port plan, editorial, A6 - Re the proposed plan for new port facilities along the Delaware River, see 10/17/14 story, it’s noted that “the biggest question” is where the money for the project would come from. New Castle County doesn’t have the money, neither does the state, and the federal government “will not even authorize money for repairs of existing roads.” Accordingly, “private investors will be the source,” readers are told, yet in the next breath “the organization will be some sort of joint public-private entity” (aka public private partnership). This means private investors put up the money, take the risks, and “[want] a payoff” for it. The government would apparently expect a seat at the table, however, even though its contribution to the project is not discussed. Why not just have a privately owned port and keep the government out of the equation (except for appropriate regulation)?

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A lifeline for parks; Investment plan aims to chip; away at $100M project backlog, Jonathan Starkey, A1/9 – State parks and recreational facilities have been allowed to slide in some cases, e.g., the dilapidated indoor tennis facility at Bellevue Park needs to be demolished at an estimated cost of $1.6 million, the fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park has “fallen into some disrepair over the years,” etc. Under a plan passed by the State Assembly and signed into law in August, “dozens of parkland improvement projects . . . could see new life.” The concept, according to Ray Bivens, director of state parks, is to make “better use of the funds that are already out there.” Among other things, the plan would allow the state to spend “up to 5 percent of the endowment [more than $70 million of parkland and open space money, currently invested at a very low interest rate] each year on outdoor development and environmental stewardship.” Local park officials and volunteer groups are concerned, however, that their needs may be given short shrift under the new arrangement.

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Widener adds support for a state-sponsored law school, Erin Daly, A7 - The writer, Widener’s interim dean, reacts to a 10/13/14 column advocating a public law school at the University of Delaware. While seconding points about using law schools as “incubators for social justice” and the merits of law school clinics (Widener has four, which “serve veterans, promote the environment, protect victims of domestic violence, and represent indigent criminal defendants”), Daly seeks to position Widener as the singular law school for Delaware, which should perhaps receive state aid “in the kind of public-private partnership that is becoming increasingly common in higher education.” Whether such an arrangement is needed or not, it would surely cost less than a second law school at UD.
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10/17/14, A7, Paid advertisement for Kevin Wade, Daniel G. Anderson – Here is a clear and logical statement of reasons to vote for Mr. Wade, starting with the premise that battle for control of the Senate in the mid-term elections is crucial at a national level. As registered Republicans, says Anderson, he and his wife “are tired of losing and believe it is time for a change.” Senator Coons “has supported Obama’s legislation some 95% of the time,” and it’s hardly remarkable that “now he is hustling new jobs.” Kevin Wade worked his way up in life, he doesn’t need the senate job nor would he intend to keep it for more than two terms, and he has definite plans to improve the lives of Delawareans: Reduce your cost of electricity . . . natural gas export facility . . . close our borders and stop the flow north of heroin . . . sponsor a new plan for real school choice (public, charter, parochial or independent) . . . longer term, Delaware could opt to become a “right to work” state. This seems like a good summary of Wade’s positions but this is hardly an “issues” ad. Notwithstanding the disclaimer in small print at the bottom (“Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee”), we’re not clear how the ad squares with current federal and state laws re campaign contributions. Just goes to show, in our opinion, that the limits on direct campaign contributions are misguided and should be repealed.
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10/17/14, A1/A7, A port plan for 4,000 jobs, Maureen Milford – See prior story on this proposal, 7/13/14. There will be a public forum today to disclose preliminary findings of a $100K feasibility study which has apparently been done by Paul F. Richardson Associates Inc. and paid for by the longshoremen’s unions. Estimated cost of the new port facilities would be in the $400-500M range, and the ownership & operation concept is a “public [port authority]–private [operating company] partnership. It’s envisioned that 4K high paying blue-collar jobs could result. County Executive Tom Gordon is a supporter, and will be at the public hearing.
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10/16/14, A11, Wade criticizes Coons on Ebola in UD Senate debate, Jon Offredo
– This report on last night’s debate between Senator Chris Coons & the GOP challenger, New Castle businessman Kevin Wade, identifies the high point as Wade’s criticism of a “tweet” posted by Coons “that seemed to tell Americans to stop ‘freaking out’ about the death of Thomas Duncan, the Liberian patient who passed away [died of Ebola] in Dallas last week.” Coons’s response was the he had simply posted a link to an article in the New Republic entitled “Stop Freaking Out About America’s Single Ebola Death, and Start Worrying About West Africa” and wasn’t responsible for the wording. According to the NJ’s report, “Wade’s attack was the start of a heavy assault on Coons on Ebola response, education and the economy.” However, Coons said “he’s spoken with” the head of the CDC as well as state and federal health officials and all will be well if the country will just invest more “in making sure we have got the resources, we’ve got the training, and the equipment in America’s hospitals to effectively respond.” He also “said repeatedly that Wade, the Republican nominee, was either mischaracterizing information or misinformed.” Coons claimed to “have a real record to talk about,” as evidenced by his involvement with “several pieces of bipartisan legislation.” He painted himself as a supporter of Democratic values, such as raising the minimum wage, dealing with the “equality gap,” investing in manufacturing, and strengthening the economy. Wade pointed to a “lack of leadership” in DC and criticized Coons for voting for the president’s/Harry Reid’s priorities 97% of the time. “That’s not being bipartisan, that’s being part of the logjam.” If elected, Wade said he would be an independent voice in the Senate rather than being “the Republican senator from Delaware.” Representative John Carney and Republican challenger Rose Izzo were also supposed to be on the evening’s docket, but “Izzo withdrew from the debate two weeks ago” so Carney held court by himself, fielding questions ranging from local issues to Ebola and Syria. A UD poll last month “showed Coons with a 27-point lead over Wade” and Izzo even further behind her opponent. As indicated, Coons “won” the debate. And we’re not sure there will be any more of them, so it’s hard to see any event between now and Nov. 4 that could turn this “race” into a real contest. We found the debate format to be heavily over-moderated, with superficial coverage of just about every issue imaginable (the foregoing summary leaves out Syria, Common Core, energy policy, biofuels, campus sexual assault, etc.) and no latitude for either candidate to get into real depth about anything. Consider, for example, that each candidate was limited to one minute (!) opening and closing statements, with commentary of the two (!) moderators and videotaped questions from UD students taking up about half of the intervening time. The Mitchell Hall audience (maybe 200 people, with a lot of empty seats) was admonished before the debate that there must be no applause, campaign buttons, banners, etc. For those who might like to view the C-Span video, here’s the link. http://www.c-span.org/video/?322056-1/delaware-senate-debate
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10/16/14, A3, City crime dominates AG debate; Candidates look at ways to address problem of violence in Wilmington, Jonathan Starkey – Scheduled on the same night as the congressional debates (see story above), the AG debate received more attention from the News Journal. Not only was the story on the AG debate longer, but it was more prominently placed and included a photo of the four (!) candidates: Catherine Damavandi (G), Matt Denn (D), David Graham (I), and Ted Kittila (R). Notwithstanding the lead that “Lt. Gov. Matt Denn offered a broad vision for the attorney general’s office,” the reporter discusses only one subject, namely keeping people safe from criminals. Denn [who has no prosecutorial experience] talked about working to increase visible foot patrols in high-crime areas of Wilmington [presumably the responsibility of the Wilmington mayor and law enforcement] and about reforming sentencing and pre-trial release practices that put violent offenders back on the street. According to law enforcement officials that Denn has talked to, “some judges in some courts have been identified to me as putting some violent offenders back on the street prematurely.” Damavandi [a former state prosecutor who resigned to run for AG] suggested that the foot patrols, etc. didn’t need to wait until after the election and weren’t within the AG’s purview anyway. She suggested that the AG’s office should create a career criminal unit to target the business of drug crime. Kittila [a “Republican lawyer”] said the AG should work to create better relationships in Wilmington, and embrace a community policing strategy. “If people are going to report crimes, they want to feel comfortable, they want to know [the crimes] are going to be prosecuted.” He also questioned Denn’s suggestion of attempting to bring members of the judiciary and law enforcement communities together as potentially undermining judicial independence. “You expect your judge to be absolutely fair . . . not to be reeducated and get on message.” Graham – No comments are reported in this story. Party affiliations aside, how would one make a choice based on this smattering of information?
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10/13/14, A10, It is beyond time for a state-sponsored law school in Delaware, Rashmi Rangan (DE Community Reinvestment Action Council) & James Angus (Sussex County attorney “specializing in social justice and advocacy) – Reasons for a state law school (to be located at UD): (1) Delaware is “one of a handful of states” that doesn’t have one; (2) Such a school “can instill in students aspiring to careers in law a sense of civic duty and the nobility in helping others.” (3) Low income persons are supposedly “in dire need of access to legal services,” since otherwise they will be preyed upon by “banks, payday lenders, credit card companies and, yes, even healthcare providers.” (4) Tuition for three years at Widener Law School is an eye-popping $120K, whereas Maryland and Virginia’s George Mason cost only about $80K. (5) Any graduate of a Delaware public institution of higher learning “should qualify for student loan credit for service to the state or service to a Delaware nonprofit,” e.g., reduce the balance due by 20% a year (eliminate it for five years of public service). What’s wrong with this? We’re not quite sure where to begin, but the recommended subsidization of legal work would surely create more of it – a lot more – which would add to the cost of doing business and create more social problems than it solves. Indeed, we would think the country needs more engineers, scientists, accountants, business entrepreneurs, construction workers, etc. versus more lawyers and social workers.
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10/13/14, State’s “triple goal” health[care] plan poses numerous cost problems, Dr. Christopher Casscells (CRI) – Delaware and the Christiana Care Health Systems feted Dr. Donald Berwick, former head of Medicare and Medicaid Services and a major author of [GovCare] last year and his “Triple Aim” of increased access to healthcare, increased quality of outcomes, and lower cost. All gain, no pain, what’s not to like? For details, see the Delaware State Healthcare Innovation Plan, December 2013, http://tinyurl.com/ptlvb5x (download plan as PDF). The writer points to six problems: (1) No mention of tort reform or indemnification of healthcare providers, so obviously excessive testing will continue. (2) Revenue sharing idea sounds good, but doctors will not work harder based on an expectation of bonuses if “the hospitals, the State Medicaid system and the insurance system [somehow] become more efficient.” (3) No provision to encourage the least educated patients to use less expensive care, so they won’t do it. (4) No one intends to address drug violence, poor education, and nutrition [deficiencies], all of which run up medical costs. Also Medicaid is already over 20% of the DE budget, and when the federal subsidy (under GovCare) expires in three years the problem will get much worse. (5) For all the talk about “stakeholders,” doctors weren’t involved in creating the plan and they aren’t going to support it. (6) There is no discussion at all about increasing the responsibility of patients to stay healthy or pay for their own care. “Minus that, the disconnect between supply and demand will persist malignantly.”
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10/10/14, Whither troubled city schools in Wilmington(A) Local leaders doubt state’s reform design, A1/A4, Matthew Albright – Follow-up on state efforts to force changes in six failing public schools.  See “Turnaround or takeover,” 9/21/14.  Critics claim that perceived problems at the targeted schools could be fixed with more funding: “The priority schools document is a dollar store band-aid that couldn’t heal a paper cut, let alone the festering wound of segregation, poverty and educational inequity that our children attempt to surmount every day,” says Adrianna Bohm of the Red Clay School District.  And according to this story, the controversy will probably end in some kind of compromise. (B) Moyer must close at year-end; State Board of Education is unanimous as it revokes the struggling school’s charter, A3, Matthew Albright – After “more than a year of warnings,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education have decreed that Moyer Academic Institute’s charter will be revoked, meaning that the school must close at the end of the current school year.  Moyer’s test scores were among the reasons cited, e.g., only 10% of students scored proficient in math and only 23% scored proficient in reading.  Moreover, Moyer was previously closed and then allowed to reopen in the same building under new management.  Moyer’s current leaders say they are serving a challenging student population (predominantly black, from low income families), and that they have made changes that could potentially turn the school around.  Another argument is that if Moyer is forced to close, the students will go back to public schools that don’t have great test scores either (see Story A).  Moyer supporters are said to be considering a lawsuit to try and keep the school open.  A similar strategy was used by Reach Academy for Girls, claiming discrimination because an all-boys school had been left open, and won a judicial stay.  The only charter school that has been successfully forced to close in recent years was Pencader Academy, and in that case “only after the state provided $350,000 to help it cover its closing costs.”  (C) Moyer’s failure highlights the problem, A12 – This editorial ties the two cases together.  “The timing of the [Moyer] vote struck school officials and others as ironic because the closing would force many of the students to attend one of six non-charter public schools that suffer from the same problems” and “have been pulled into a state-mandated turnaround program that is being resisted by their [school] districts and boards.”  And both cases may potentially end in lawsuits brought by school supporters.   Moyer’s failure shows that “intentions are not good enough” and “a strong plan with measurements is needed.”  On the other hand, the Board of Education’s approach to the public schools “is top-down and overly complicated” so “the two sides should step back and start their talks over.”  Comments: (1) We’re not big fans of the top down approach being used to target the six public schools for a makeover, but disagree that the problems are due to a shortage of funding.  Providing choice and competition in the educational system is the real answer.  See our recap of Charlie Copeland’s recent talk to the RMLC.  SAFE Newsletter, Fall 2014.  http://tinyurl.com/ovm2tvf (2)  One of the prime arguments for charter schools is that failing ones can be shut down – and Moyer has been given ample opportunity.  Other Delaware charters, e.g., Kuumba Academy, have successfully served similar student populations. Copeland’s talk.  (3) The Pencader closure was poorly handled by the Board of Education, in our view, and possibly unwarranted. State monitors flunk Pencader, 2/22/13.
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10/9/14, A1/A5, Del. coastal flood issues to get worse; Report says nuisance events will become even more common, Molly Murray
– This story leads with a statement by state planner Susan Love to the effect that “over the last 30 days, there’s been minor flooding in low areas of Lewes six times.”  And according to a new Union of Concerned Scientists report issued on Wednesday, such nuisance flooding will reportedly “get worse in coastal areas along both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts over the next 15 and 30 years.”  Although “the report doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know in Delaware,” Love is quoted, “it helps put a vision on the short term.”  (Thus, per UCS estimates, the incidence of nuisance flooding in Lewes will increase to 90 tidal flooding events by 2030 and more than 200 flooding events a year by 2045.)  The study reportedly concluded that “municipalities alone cannot solve the flooding problems” and therefore “called on federal officials to help coastal areas tackle sea level rise flooding.” Among the difficult conversations that need to take place, according to Love, are the tradeoffs between allowing land development in vulnerable areas now (increasing tax base) and the future costs of bailing out landowners when flooding becomes “a regular event.” And alas, “most of Delaware’s coastal towns are small and don’t have the resources to hire a planner to help them prepare for the future.”  Livening up the text are two pictures of a sign posted in the Lewes area that displays previous benchmark high tides from severe storms.  The current record of 7.8 feet above mean sea level was set in 1962.  In one picture, the sign is sticking well above the water during a storm in November 2009.  In the second, a scale is added to the sign showing hypothetical water levels in 2050 (assumes the 1962 storm plus 1.7 foot sea level rise), and two cases for 2100 (assumes the 1962 storm plus 3.2 foot SLR or alternatively 4.9 foot SLR).  Compare the long-term average SLR in Lewes, which has been 1/8 of an inch per year or about one foot per century.  We don’t believe the indicated acceleration in SLR has been factually supported.
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10/7/14, A1/A4, Official: Ebola ruled out in Delaware case, Jen Rini – A child from Liberia was treated at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover for possible exposure to Ebola, but it turned out to be a false alarm.  Dr. Karel Rattay, director of the DE Division of Public Health, is quoted to the effect that “Ebola is a very difficult disease to contract” and the Federal CDC to the effect that “most outbreaks occur in remote areas of Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.”  Officials assured the public that DE hospitals are following CDC guidelines for patients with suspected Ebola-like symptoms and also that “we don not have a case of Ebola virus here in Delaware.”  The first case of contracting the disease outside of Africa (in Spain) has been reported, and there are very likely to be cases originating in the US before long.  It’s feared that as the disease spreads more widely, the containment strategy now being followed will prove insufficient – for which reason more attention needs to be given to developing methods of treatment, such as a vaccine, relaxing the normal FDA precautions as appropriate.   Stopping Ebola before it turns into a pandemic, Scott Gottlieb & Trevi Troy, Wall Street Journal, 10/3/14. http://tinyurl.com/nzscl5f
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10/7/14, A5, DuPont and P&G revamp Tide’s mix, Aaron Nathans – The two companies announce that cellulosic ethanol, rather than corn-based ethanol, will be used in “Tide” laundry detergent.  The development is portrayed as environmentally friendly, in that the new formulation can be used in cooler water and also, as a P&G official put it, it would “re-purpose” roughly 7,000 tons of agricultural waste per year.  Fine by us, so long as the product isn’t propped up by government subsidies or mandates.
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10/7/14, A8, The facts about sea-level rise, Chad Tolman, Wilmington – This response to John Greer’s letter (http://tinyurl.com/kppak8e) on the News Journal’s exaggerated reporting about sea level rise (SLR) cites a page on Climate Central’s website that “clearly says the projected [SLR for Delaware] by 2050 is 14 inches.”  So “where the author got 9 feet in 20 years is a mystery” and “perhaps he didn’t carefully read or understand the News Journal article or the Climate Central report.”  Kudos to the News Journal for doing “an outstanding job of reporting on Delaware’s vulnerability to [SLR] and bringing it to the attention of the public.”  The NJ story cited a 6-foot SLR figure (by an unspecified date) provided by Michael Mann of Penn State, which Professor Mann paired with the observation that “the first rule in risk mitigation is that you make contingency plans for worst-case scenarios.”  It also prominently displayed a map of flooding in the Wilmington area showing “value per acre inside areas with a 9-foot sea level rise,” which was said to indicate “what’s at risk in 20 years.”  If Climate Central is merely projecting 14 inches of SLR by 2050 (which would represent a tripling of the historical SLR rate), doesn’t their reported finding that SLR will put at risk “hundreds of thousands of people, billions of dollars in property and roads, schools and power plants” sound a bit exaggerated?  Dire Flood Warning, [9/16/14,].
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10/2/14, A15, What is connection between tax inversions and jobs, UD economists Stacy Beck & Eleanor Craig – The combined federal-state US corporate tax rate is 39.2%, the highest in the world. OECD (34 country) average is 24%. And corporations headquartered in the US pay the high rate on worldwide profits. It’s not hard to understand why $2 trillion in offshore earnings are not being remitted to the US, and US companies are not only siting operations in other countries but also entering into “inversion” transactions to change to foreign domiciles. What’s more, US workers pay the price. “Economic research shows that taxes collected on corporations’ income reduce the amount paid to workers. One study estimates that $2.50 is lost in wages for every $1 of tax collected.” Instead of trying to attack inversion transactions, the administration should be supporting corporate tax reform. “It is long past time to revamp the US corporate tax system to deal with global realities and restore to our economy the dynamism it once had.”
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9/28/14, A1/A6, Anderson brings big money to GOP fight, Jonathan Starkey – Daniel Anderson is a retired real estate developer from Rehoboth, 86 years old and in failing health (uses oxygen).  During most of his adult life, he was largely indifferent to politics.  But now he has become “consumed by issues facing America,” and is hoping – among other things – to help “turn around Delaware’s dysfunctional Republican party.” To this end, Anderson has taken out a series of conservative political ads in the News Journal.  He has also given considerable sums to political action committees (total of some $700K so far) linked to select candidates: Jeff Crag (2012), Sher Valenzuela (2012), Colin Bonini, Ken Simpler, Greg Lavelle, & Kevin Wade.  Despite Anderson’s assistance, Democratic candidates continue to enjoy a major edge in fund raising and in support from the political establishment.  GOP leaders appreciate the help, but they wish it was more broadly based.  As GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland put it: “having someone like a Dan Anderson is wonderful.  But at the end of the day, my job is to build the base.  That means getting a lot of people involved.”
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9/28/14, A23 et seq., News Journal reprises familiar theme: where will the jobs come from – John Sweeney’s lengthy column on “Man vs. Machine” is complemented by an array of letters from people who were  asked to comment on the issue.   And for prior commentary, see, e.g., “News Journal continues to dwell on economic issues in Delaware,” 12/8/13.  It’s easy to agree that stable, good paying jobs will not necessarily be plentiful in coming years, and that people with a good education will have an edge in going after the jobs that are available.  Beyond that, the Sweeney column suggests that we need “to force our politicians to start talking about consequences,” i.e., what the policies they advocate will accomplish. Conservatives complain about the harm done by overly strict regulations, but can they prove it?  Thus, “do we really want to allow a business to pollute the air?” Why should the burden of proof be on those who oppose a rising tide of regulations versus those who advocate ever more regulations?  And the issue isn’t whether businesses should be allowed to “pollute the air,” it is how much pollution abatement is justifiable given the costs involved – with a clear recognition of the law of diminishing returns.  Liberals want to raise the minimum wage, which will cause one of three things to happen: “the customer pays more, the owner makes less [and probably doesn’t expand the business], or some of the workers are let go.”  What do they propose to do about these consequences?  UD economist Saul Hoffman suggests that the state government should focus on infrastructure, education, environment, etc. with the goal of “making Delaware the kind of place where entrepreneurs and workers with all kinds of skill sets want to be.” Don’t cut taxes, offer special incentives, etc. because that sort of thing sets up an unhealthy competition and the marginal businesses (like Frontier Airlines) won’t stick around anyway.  Let “markets do their work.” NCC Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kleinschmidt’s bottom line is that “government and business must think differently and . . . work together to get Delaware’s economy moving again.”  Thus businesses must do a better job of communicating the skills and education they are looking for in workers of the future, and “our schools and universities must move quickly to meet these requirements which are always changing.”  DE Sen. Robert Marshall touts public-private partnerships.  PNC economist Gus Faucher sees a relatively bright picture except in the manufacturing sector where Delaware auto plants have been closed and consolidation is taken place in pharmaceuticals manufacturing.  GOP political candidate Kevin Hensley advocates increasing funding to small business to help with start-up costs and doing something about business taxes (our corporate income tax is nearly the highest in the nation). 
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9/28/14, E4, Improving turbines, Aaron Nathans – In 2010-11, there were several stories about a wind turbine in Lewes being operated under University of Delaware auspices.  The project was somewhat controversial, and a Lewes resident filed suit in an effort to stop it. Lewes group questions UD wind turbine: Project built without environmental studies, permits, 4/27/11   Presumably the suit was unsuccessful, as this story says nothing about it.  Instead, the current focus is on research re bird and bat fatalities. Researchers were surprised to discover “few bird strikes.”  Bird fatalities vary depending on various factors, including wind turbine design.  Taller turbines tend to be more lethal.  How many birds do wind turbines really kill?  Smithsonian.com, 12/16/13. http://tinyurl.com/qfo3jod On the other hand, quite a few bats were being killed.  An adjustment in the turbine settings – so blades would start turning at a somewhat higher wind speed – achieved a 90% reduction in bat fatalities without much loss in power production.  It’s hoped that other wind farms will consider the benefits of the BatShield system for their projects.
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9/25/14, A11, Power plant suit OK’d; Judge allows challenge to CO2 limits, Jeff Montgomery - Update on an earlier story: Lawsuit challanges Delaware's "cap and trade" restricttions  1/3/14.  Superior Court (Sussex County) Judge Richard Stokes has ruled that the plaintiffs have standing to challenge administrative ajustment to the mandated phase-in of emission caps in Delaware and other states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap and trade scheme.  Said adjustment was made to hike the market price of renewable energy credits; it will have the effect of inflating power prices for Delaware consumers and generating funds that can be “invested” in clean energy projects without effective legislative oversight.  The theory of the suit is that DNREC’s approval of the adjustment for Delaware constituted a tax increase and therefore required legislative action under the state constitution. Why should it take nearly 9 months to rule on a challenge to standing that simply delays getting to the merits of the suit?  “Justice delayed is justice denied.” 
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9/21/14, A1/A10-A/11, Turnaround or takeover; State says dramatic change a must – but proposal outrages many school leaders, Matthew Albright – The Delaware Department of Education says six low-income schools in Wilmington [Warner Elementary, Highlands Elementary, Shortlidge Elementary, Bancroft Elementary, Stubbs Elementary, Bayard Middle] are failing, and the way to fix them is to make the more than 200 teachers reapply for their jobs – and to hire elite principals at each school who won’t have to follow most district rules [of the Red Clay & Christina School Districts] while earning annual salaries of $160,000.  The desired result is to improve student achievement as measured by the state’s standardized tests, and the districts are being asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding by 9/30 to begin establishing a plan for each school.  According to Kenneth Rivers, Red Clay president, this would be a takeover versus an understanding and “we are not going to agree to that.”  If the districts don’t agree, however, state officials might be limited to three options: closure, conversion to a charter school, or contracting with a private management organization to run the school.  The current situation is called “the latest chapter in Delaware’s journey to comply with the federal Race to the Top school reform plan, which has yielded the state $116 million in additional [federal] funding” but with plenty of strings attached.  Among other things, critics suggest the schools should hire more teachers and reduce class sizes instead of hiring super expensive principals. In an accompanying editorial (“Turnaround” compromise is needed, A30), the News Journal suggests that the district leaders “were more than willing to accept the $5.8 million that came along with the ‘turnaround’ program,” until they got a look at what they were supposed to do to get it, all 156 pages of conditions written by the Department of Education.  It’s becoming “hard to tell who runs the schools.  The federal government, the state education department, the local school boards or the superintendents?  Each has it own political base and vested interests to serve. Missing in this calculus, or course, are the children.  The state’s approach appears to be heavy-handed and bureaucratic.  The districts, for their part, need to acknowledge that not all of the educational failings of the students can be passed of on their economic background.  Work out a solution.”  We think local control of schools is a good thing, and that’s what the state DOE seems to be pushing for (however clumsily) in this case.  But it’s ironic to see the federal and state authorities taking this tack instead of the school boards, which are much closer to the front lines.
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9/17/14, A1/A15, UD’s STAR campus could get a data center – eventually, William McMichael – The gist of this story is that UD “will listen to such [data center] offers,” provided the data center is designed to run on power from the grid with only modest backup power arrangements.  “We have been approached by other entities that are interested in placing a data center on the site,” said Andy Lubin, UD’s director of real estate, but “it is clearly not prudent for us to be pursuing that at this time.” One of the arguments for rejecting TDC’s project was that it would not contribute to student learning; how would a data center connected to the grid be superior in this regard?
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9/1714, A2, Little done since 2011 anti-fracking decision, Jeff Montgomery - Nearly 3 years ago (11/18/11), Governor Markell cast his vote on the DRBC against fracking in the Delaware River watershed pending further study.  Delaware has no shale oil reserves, and therefore paid no direct penalty for taking this position. Since then, as pointed out in this story, no substantive studies of the issue have taken place and the parties are still mouthing the same talking points.  A spokesman said the governor’s caution remains valid and quoted Markell’s earlier warning that “once hydrofracturing begins in the basin, the proverbial ‘faucet’ cannot be turned off, with any damage to our precious freshwater supplies likely requiring generations of efforts to clean up.” This is an ideological position, pure and simple, which ignores the economic benefits from the fracking boom that has taken place without any notable problems in other areas, e.g., most of Pennsylvania.
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9/17/14, A10, Are we willing to bet the sea won’t rise? – This editorial reflects the so-called precautionary principle, e.g., the sea level might not rise, but we might as well plan on it happening and get prepared.  And cheer up, because “the new models are based on the best estimates.”  The sea level is rising, if nothing else because coastal lands are sinking, but not nearly as fast as “the new models” would suggest.  And one of the big causes of irresponsible behavior has been subsidized flood insurance and beach restoration.  Eliminate these programs and let property owners make their own decisions. 
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9/17/14, A4/A5, What We the People really means: The time of the rule of kings was in decline, and in the newly formed “United States” the Founding Fathers made sure that, for generations to come, the power would be with the people, John Sweeney – two page spread, with picture of various of the Founders and details on the historical context and mechanics of writing, inscribing, and gaining approval (through state conventions, not state legislatures) of the Constitution. This presentation fits in with the overall “We the People” theme of the News Journal’s multi-day series on the Constitution (today, of course, is Constitution Day). 
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9/17/14, A11, “We the People” is Delaware’s glory, challenge as well, Governor Jack Markell – “While the preamble to our national constitution sets out the mission of our federal government, its vision cannot be realized without the leadership of the states.”  Our brave first responders – the National Guard – state courts – “[promoting] the general welfare and [securing] the blessings of liberty by providing access to housing, healthcare and schools.”  And as Justice Louis Brandeis once said, the states can act as “laboratories of democracy.”  Being “small and nimble,” Delaware is well suited for this role, and it’s also “diverse” so “what works in Delaware can work anywhere.”  A series of past, present or potential initiatives are cited: provide “access to early learning” for “low-income” children – Common Core education standards – free SAT testing for all high school students that will help “us know who is on track for college” and provide all of our “college-ready students” with information and resources – desegregation lawsuit that helped pave the way for Brown v. Board of Education – Jobs for American Graduates program founded by Gov. Pete DuPont.  “Now, Delaware has an opportunity to help America become a more perfect union by securing our nation’s future.” Historically, it was envisioned that the federal government would exercise its specifically enumerated powers with all other powers being reserved to the states.  Also, it’s curious that this column says not one word about preserving economic liberty and property rights.
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9/16/14, A1/A4, Dire flood warning: Report says Delaware will soon see worse, more frequent flooding, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – Sea level rise (SLR) seems to be a recurring theme for these NJ reporters.  See, e.g.,  “Rising seas add to storm danger,” 5/26/14 (also a front page story). The current “news” is a report by a national environmental group called “Climate Central” to the effect that SLR will put at risk “hundreds of thousands of people, billions of dollars in property and roads, schools and power plants.”  The report includes “an interactive, online mapping tool that allows home and business owners and state and local planners to assess the localized impacts of climate change, find the most vulnerable citizens and plan for the future.” Although there is a wide range of predictions as to future SLR, “increasingly, projections are leaning toward the high side, increases that would add to already serious tidal flooding vulnerabilities.” Susan Love, a coastal programs planner with DNREC, called the online mapping feature “a national tool” and stressed the importance of seeing SLR as a national issue. “The first rule in risk mitigation is that you make contingency plans for worst-case scenarios,” adds Penn State professor Michael Mann, which supposedly shows that “increases along the mid-Atlantic will exceed 6 feet [by ??].”  Wendy Davis of UD is already working with coastal officials to develop hazard mitigation plans. Planning for the future needs to start now, she says, because “a significant amount of time is required” to change public attitudes, build consensus, develop a plan and reach long-term goals.  “Being proactive now simply makes sense. *** There’s no benefit from waiting to see” what happens.  Based on past trends, the SLR in this region will be about 1/8 of an inch a year (about one foot a century).  John Greer letter to the editor, 1/11/13. http://tinyurl.com/pobm8yv The effort to exaggerate this trend as an excuse for government-led programs seems obvious. 
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9/16/14, A1/A4, Two firms sue Data Centers [TDC] for $1.3M in unpaid fees, Melissa Nann Burke – The plaintiffs are Duffield Associates and Constructure Management Inc., which according to the complaint have not been paid for all of the work performed in working up the applications and plans for TDC’s now scrubbed data center at the UD star campus site in Newark. Neither side commented on the merits of the complaint. A commercial dispute of this magnitude would normally not be deemed newsworthy, and this one is presumably only being reported because the proposed data center occasioned so much controversy.  It occurs to us that UD might properly be on the hook for some of the charges involved based on its handling of this matter (first granted a 75-year lease, giving TDC the impression that its project was a go, and then backed out after strong environmentalist opposition developed).
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9/16/14, A90, The Constitution and pollution: Federalism at work, Widener law professor David Hodas – In addition to being “the protector of important individual rights from government deprivation” (the Bill of Rights), the Constitution “provides the necessary structure for our democracy so the nation and citizens can cooperate and prosper.”  While federal law can be made supreme when it needs to be, “national solutions require local implementation [and] the Supreme Court has made clear that the national government cannot command state governments to fulfill the federal mandate.”  The happy answer is “cooperative federalism,” in which the federal and state governments work together.  A good example might be the control of pollution, where Congress (A) “set national goals and policies and general nationwide standards,” (B) authorized the EPA “to establish pollutant specific rules, and to implement and enforce the law,” and then (C) “allowed states to volunteer to administer the law themselves, using state laws that meet [or if desired exceed] the minimum federal standards” and acting through “state agencies, state environmental staff and state lawyers.”  This approach “has proven to be remarkably successful,” and as result great environmental progress has been achieved.  Just goes to show that the Constitution is “a remarkable document,” which, as Justice John Marshall observed in McCulloch v. Maryland [1819 decision striking down a state tax on the Bank of the United States] was “intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.” What about the aggregate burden on businesses and individuals of having both federal and state regulators dealing with the same issues?  And suppose the EPA starts making policy on its own, knowing full well that it does not have the approval of Congress?  The Clean Power Plan: another proposed power grab, 6/9/14
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9/15/14, A10, Are we living up to desires of the Founding Fathers? Helen Foss (board member of ACLU of Delaware, long-time focus on education including serving as the education adviser to former Governor Mike Castle) – The Constitution doesn’t mention education, but “each of its clauses calls for an educated public to make the vision of the Constitution work.”  The Founders “knew that for a democracy to work, it was essential that the public be capable of making decisions.”  “We the people” started out as men “who were over 21 and owned property,” which left out a lot of people – and has now been changed. And there is today “a far richer mix of ethnicities than [was] ever imagined in 1787,” making it all the more important that the public will be educated so as “to elect leaders who can serve us and our country well.” And yet: “Delaware’s students from low-income families are consistently scoring very poorly on achievement tests” -  “minority school suspension and expulsion rates are disproportionately high” – we are “spending more per year per prisoner than the cost per year for a college student” – and prison inmates are not taught job skills or helped when they return to the general population so recidivism is high.  Delaware has spent a bundle on education, but “still we are challenged to help far too many children who have not reached target levels.” How do we expect citizens to “feel the civic responsibility to be involved in decisions – whether they be regarding community health or rezoning or groundwater use or voting regulations or school board decisions about attendance zones or curriculum?”  And “even the most self-serving of us senior citizens should appreciate the benefits of today’s children entering the workforce and helping to pay our Social Security and Medicare.”  So let Constitution Day be “a reminder of the need for all of us to give voice to our opinions on civic matters, at minimum by voting [emphasis added], and why an effective school system is critical to our democracy.” Encouraging everyone to vote, whether they have an informed opinion or not, will not promote good government.  There would be something to be said for requiring that all voters make at least some contribution to the general cost of government (by paying income taxes). Otherwise, what incentive do they have to vote for fiscally responsible leaders?
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9/14/14, A19/A20, Constitution Day is coming up this week – Today, the News Journal & Widener Law School kick off “a series of essays examining our progress” in “putting ‘We the People/ in charge.” (A) Are “We the People” meeting our responsibilities? Widener Law School professor Alan Garfield – Note that all of us are “the current generation” charged with keeping this experiment going and preserving it for future generations.  So how are we doing?  Too often, it seems that “our political system, paralyzed by partisanship, is stuck in neutral.  And it’s not just politicians at fault.  Americans themselves are deeply divided between red and blue,” with “the most strident among us” thinking that “their counterparts in the other party are endangering the nation’s welfare.”  So how can we “reawaken . . . that spirit of collaboration that made it possible, 227 years ago, to adopt the Constitution”?  Which is not to say the Constitution is “a perfect document,” especially since (1) it took the Civil War to fix the slavery issue, and (2) “the Constitution today contributes to our paralysis with a system of checks and balances that invites gridlock.” But “in a popular sovereignty,” we in Delaware and elsewhere should be able to “demonstrate how it’s possible to respect one another’s legitimate concerns and still find room for compromise.” And what are “the contentious issues” that need to be solved?  The writer’s list: Manmade global warming (“glaciers are melting, species are dying, storms are destroying our coastlines”); a criminal justice system that produces “one of the highest incarceration rates in the world” with “a vastly disproportionate number of inmates [who] are people of color;”  the tradeoff between national security and individual liberty in this “age of big data;” and the purportedly excessive competition between the political parties that is drowning out progress on “the people’s agenda.” Who should be in charge of divining “the people’s agenda,” e.g., the hopelessly biased media, university professors, or pollsters? (B) Do we still benefit from the two-party system? Chuck Durante (an attorney in Wilmington) – Thank goodness for “the Democratic Republican Party” that was organized to oppose the Federalist Party; without it, Thomas Jefferson might not have been elected president in 1800.  But the two-party system, which has been “essentially frozen into place since the Civil War,” leaves much to be desired.  It’s a duopoly, in which “a party’s leaders can lose touch with their constituents” and “a fervent minority can poison the health of the party.” As a result, “their lackluster nominees fail; the other party rejoices; the public suffers from constricted choices.” But it’s tough to organize a third party, which generally winds up putting the other side in office.  As a result of Ralph Nader’s run for president in 2000, for example, “a modestly liberal electorate” found itself electing “a deeply conservative [??] president.” The answer is an instant runoff system, or “preferential voting,” which could employ modern electronic technology to make a vote for a third party “a rational act.”  Voters would choose candidates in order of preference, and if there was no majority winner, the candidates with the lowest number of votes would be eliminated and second choices of the voters in question would be reflected.  Another approach, “frequently discussed but not needed,” is open primaries in which Republican voters can influence the outcome of Democratic primaries and vice versa.  The potential confusion and opportunities for fraud with preferential voting seem obvious, especially if there were a number of “third parties” on the ballot.
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9/12/14, A1/A4, Wilmington Trust to pay $18.5M in bad loan deal; “Failed bank” does not admit or deny claims it misrepresented its finances, Maureen Milford – Wilmington Trust foundered and was acquired by M&T Bank in 2011 “at a deep discount.”  The legal fallout from WT’s former mismanagement continues, most recently an $18.5M settlement with the SEC re charges that WT made false and misleading statements about past-due loans in 2009 & 2010.  A shareholder civil suit against some WT directors and officers on basically the same issue is in process (should go to trial next summer), as well as an ongoing SEC investigation (there have six criminal prosecutions since last year).  Helen Bowers, chair of the Finance Department at UD, is quoted about WT’s fall from grace.  “Not that long ago, it was unthinkable that Wilmington Trust, the bank most associated with Delaware, would be associated with the word fraud.” 
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9/12/14, A9, DC rally a reminder of unratified Equal Rights Amendment, Nicole Gaudiano – Thousands of women are expected to rally in DC on Saturday for “women’s equality, voting rights and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment” (adopted by Congress in 1972, but fell three states short of ratification when its deadline expired in 1982).  While advocates are trying to rekindle enthusiasm for the ERA at the grass roots level, according to this story, “some in Congress – including Rep. John Carney and Sen. Chris Coons – work to either repeal the amendment’s deadline or start over.”  According to rally organizers, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has “energized interest in the ERA” by saying that certain employers can’t be required to provide free insurance coverage for birth control if they object on religious grounds.  It’s also claimed that women are paid less than men for equal work (supposedly 77¢ vs. $1.00) and “are less likely to be promoted in certain positions than men, positions of power, like CEO.”  The proposed amendment reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” Congress would be empowered to enact enforcing legislation (what’s stopping them now, isn’t pay discrimination based on gender already illegal?).  The potential for endless litigation from such an amendment should be obvious, and the need for it is increasingly less apparent as women forge ahead in the workplace.
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9/10/14, odds and ends – Several news items should be noted for the record: (A) DE primaries were yesterday.  In the most watched race, Ken Simpler won the GOP nomination for treasurer with a 54-46% edge over Sher Valenzuela.  (B) Janice Nevin has been named to succeed Dr. Robert Laskowski as the CEO for Christiana Care Health System.  (C) Newark reportedly spent $577K in “battle over data center,” mainly for attorney fees.  “There’s definitely people in the city who aren’t happy that we spent half a million,” said Council member Stu Markham, “but we had to follow the legal process.”  As for its expenditures in rethinking the venture and breaking the lease it had granted to TDC, UD declined to disclose them on grounds that public funds were not involved.  No comment about the major economic penalties (lost jobs and tax revenues) from scrubbing the project.
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9/7/14, A1/A10, PACs provide superhighway for big money into politics; Growing use of committees allows unlimited contributions, Jonathan Starkey & Jon Offredo – “The current primary election campaign [referring primarily to the GOP primary race for treasurer] proves once again that big money from wealthy donors is seeping into Delaware politics . . .”.  Under Delaware law, according to this article, donors to “traditional campaign committees” controlled by the candidates) are limited to a maximum $1,200 contribution for each election cycle.  At that rate, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to raise the amount of money required for a vigorous campaign.  As Senator Colin Bonini (Dover-R) is aptly quoted, “we have campaign limits that quite frankly don’t reflect the reality of what it costs to run a campaign.”  The end around (under both federal and apparently DE law) is to contribute to a PAC that advocates issues vs. candidates, with no limit on contributions because this is seen as constitutionally protected free speech.  Thus, a pro-Simpler PAC “not only funded $90,000 in television advertisements, but produced radio advertisements and targeted registered Republicans with direct mail pieces attempting to link Valenzuela with Markell, citing her service on a workforce investment board.”  Donors behind this PAC included retired real estate developer Daniel Anderson to the tune of $50K; Anderson “has given at least $528,000 to Republican PACs since 2010, campaign records show.”  Perhaps the time has come for some honesty in campaign finance laws, which as they stand are doing more harm than good.  PAC money is often spent in questionable ways (the negative attacks on Sher Valenzuela struck us as unprovoked and out of place in the generally civil world of Delaware politics), while enabling candidates to deny responsibility – better to allow direct contributions and let the chips fall where they may.  Doubling down on campaign finance reform, 4/28/14.  Also, it’s curious that this story sheds no light on how the Valenzuela campaign is being financed.
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9/7/14, A23, An alternative approach to state’s teacher evaluation system, Lamont W. Browne (principal, East Side Charter) – Based on experience at East Side Charter School – in partnership with Kuumba, Prestige and Thomas Edison – a Teaching Excellence Framework has proved a worthy alternative to the state’s evaluation system.  The premise is that evaluation needs to be combined with coaching in order to achieve positive results.  Accordingly, “we set a goal to observe each of our teachers biweekly, followed by a one-on-one coaching session between a coach and the teacher between 18 and 20 times annually.”  The lessons are digitally recorded for reference, and the feedback and dialog are not publicized.  According to the writer, “the relationship between teacher and coach has led to strong teacher buy-in and satisfaction,” with numerous glowing comments reported, e.g., “100 percent felt their instructional leader was committed to improving their effectiveness.”  And student test scores have improved considerably.  This is an interesting concept, certainly worth considering for broader use in the school system.
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9/7/14, It’s way past time for reasonable curbs on stock buyouts, Ted Kaufman – “Historically,” according to the writer, “a corporation bought back its own stock when its board felt it was undervalued.”  But in the past 30 years (“the same period when income inequality suddenly and dramatically increased”), this has changed.  Today, “most of the compensation for corporate executives is directly linked to growth in their companies’ stock prices” and the preponderance of earnings at big corporations are being used to buy back stock or pay dividends, with only a pittance (“9 percent of the profits of S&P corporations”) being left for reinvestment in “things like new plants and equipment, research and development, or – no surprise – raises for employees.”  So “it is way past time for the SEC to re-evaluate its 1982 decision and reinstate reasonable restrictions on stock buybacks.”  The executive pay formulae may deserve a look, especially the measurement periods involved, but what’s wrong with stock buybacks if that’s what corporate managers decide to do? It’s not as though the money disappears, it simply goes back to investors and thereby becomes available for other investments.  The claim that stock buybacks “hurt overall economic growth and exacerbate income inequality” is a bit of a stretch, and we wonder what sort of “reasonable restrictions” the SEC could put in place that would prevent such results.
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9/6/14, A4, Markell: Bloom using Del. to build most units; Production, shipping has been shifting from Calif. site, Aaron Nathans – Half a page story including picture of Bloom fuel cells with caption: “JPMorgan Chase [JPMC] recently installed Bloom Energy fuel cells at [their] Christiana Center Campus.”  The governor attended a ceremony to unveil two Bloom servers (seven units apiece) to provide electric power at the JPMC campus, which will power about 10% of the facility.  He took the occasion to announce that “pretty much all” of the production of Bloom servers is now taking place at the Newark plant vs. in Sunnyvale, California and express satisfaction about the addition of this “blue chip” customer to Bloom’s list. According to a JPMC executive, the servers were purchased unsubsidized and JPMC hopes to use them as a source of backup power.  The investment will supposedly pay for itself in 3 years (but the article doesn’t explain how).  As of June, according to a Bloom executive, Bloom had roughly 150 employees at its Newark factory with 70 more being recruited.  He declined to provide a more current estimate.  This is the first corporate customer in Delaware, aside from the heavily subsidized Delmarva Power deal.  Bloom is reportedly continuing its efforts to find more Delaware customers.  Also, there was a July announcement of 21 megawatts of projects at 75 commercial sites in CA, CT, NJ and NY.  Departing from previous practice, Bloom will sell electric power in these deals but maintain ownership of the fuel cells that produce it.  However, as previously stated, the JPMC servers are being purchased.
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9/3/14, A1/A8, Should the school day start later?  Studies show teens function poorly in early morning, Matthew Albright – According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine “the science is very firm, and it’s becoming clearer all the time, that adolescents have optimal times for sleep . . . and the times that we’re asking most of our students to get up now are interrupting the sleep schedule.” Of a similar viewpoint: American Association of Pediatrics, Jennifer Le Comte (director of pediatrics at Christiana Care’s Wilmington Hospital Health Center).  But school districts haven’t changed the schedule, citing such points as “working parents rely on early bus times so they can get to work, and students who stay after school for athletics and other activities would get home much later.” And Le Comte also says parents can help by making sure their teenagers get to bed early enough to get up on time and still have 8 hours of sound sleep, and rules re use of electronic devices in the bedroom or just before turning in can help.  The idea of making students the determining factor, versus the needs of parents and/or teachers, is problematic.  As a letter writer to the WSJ commented in today’s edition, “So typical of the effects of the nanny state this country has become.  Adopt the institution to the teens, rather than hold the teens accountable and responsible for themselves.  Pity the future employers who have to hire from this coddled group.”
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9/3/14, A7, Let parents decide teacher effectiveness, letter signed by 7 people associated with the Caesar Rodney Institute – As reported in the News Journal, less than 28% of teachers & administrators approve of the teacher evaluation system (but no mention of what they want instead, if anything, maybe they don’t think teachers should be evaluated at all).  And the rosy picture painted by the current system, e.g., only 1% of DE teachers need improvement, suggests that the system is flawed if not rigged.  Clearly, the supposed “reforms” (Comprehensive Assessment System, Vision 2012, Vision 2015, etc.) have failed.  So here’s an idea, let the parents decide to send their children to “any school they want, public or private,” using publicly funded educational savings accounts and/or vouchers.   “Providing customers with more choices made America’s economy great” and “it will work for education too.”  Seems like an idea worth considering, provided the choice model would be cost effective.
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9/2/14, A6, Delmarva Power asks customers to conserve, Jeff Montgomery – “Delmarva Power urged Delaware and Maryland customers to conserve electricity Tuesday as forecasts pointed to mid-afternoon highs of 90 or higher and an [sic] heat index pushing into the upper-90s in some areas.”  Tuesday was designated as a “Peak Savings Day,” meaning that there would be “bill credits for those who curb electricity use between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.” of up to “$1.25 for every kilowatt hour of reduced use during the savings period.”  Participants in the Energy Wise Rewards program may have air conditioner compressors switched off for “short periods” although fans will continue to run.  This veritable heat wave is expected to ease by evening with highs forecast in the high 80s for the rest of the week.  Also, “although electricity supplies are expected to be adequate,” Delmarva is recommending setting thermostats to 78 degrees, and postponing uses of major appliances.  Doesn’t it seem odd that a company selling a service is urging the customers to buy less of it – what is Delmarva Power’s motivation?  And since customers can save money by conserving electricity to begin with, why should they also receive “bill credits” (which other customers will presumably have to cover, as all of Delmarva Power’s distribution expenses will wind up being billed out)?
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9/2/14, A8, Banks must be up front about their fees – This editorial lauds Rep. John Carney for legislation that he introduced in the US House of Representatives (last Friday?) to ensure that people opening a “standard checking account” at a bank are not “surprised by hidden fees” or “caught in unfair policies.”  So the Checking Account Simplification Act would direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to consult with the banking services industry to develop “a standard, easy-to-read disclosure form” covering such matters as overdraft fees, cost of opening or closing a checking account, processing policies and dispute resolution procedures.  Banks would then be “required to present the form to consumers before opening a new checking account.”  This compares with current checking account disclosure forms that average 49 pages in length, with an average of 21 extra fees ranging from 10 cents to $125.  88% of checking accounts have monthly fees of an average of $14 per month, and the average overdraft penalty is $35, which according to the News Journal is “like highway robbery.”  Rashimi Rangan, who heads the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council Inc., observes that Carney’s bill “pushes for transparency and . . . illustrates the importance of the new CFPB working effectively with the banking industry.  The DCRAC serves as advisors and advocates for “underserved populations throughout Delaware,” helping them to “find relief from the burden of overextending pay-day loans and debts that harm credit eligibility.”  It also runs “Stepping Stones, Delaware’s first credit union to target low-income residents with credit counseling [and help them] in establishing savings and checking accounts.  Congress should immediately pass Carney’s bill (HR 5188) “regardless of any pushback from the banking lobby.”  We’re not convinced that the CFPB needs help from Congress in coming up with new projects, nor that this proposal will necessarily achieve its stated objectives without any undesirable consequences.  As a case in point, WSFS has started sending out monthly statements for home equity loans in compliance with a new CFPB rule – versus annual statements previously – with zero benefit to most customers and resultant costs that will, of course, have to be factored into the pricing of future loans.
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9/1/14, A10, End the secrecy over business ownership, Jenna fenstermacher, Wilmington –The writer observes that publicly traded companies are required by law to disclose their beneficial owners, and “small businesses are often proud to share their story and put a face to their company.”  Yet, “the Delaware Secretary of State’s office continues to lobby our federal delegation against requiring companies to disclose their beneficial owners.” This is letter #4 re the alleged evils of anonymous corporations.  What are Fenstermacher and the other writers so interested in the issue?
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8/31/14A, E1/E4, Exelon Corp. opposes renewal of wind subsidy; Wind power advocates worry about planned merger with Delmarva, Aaron Nathans - Exelon, the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the US and also a substantial wind power producer, has filed papers to merge with Pepco Holdings Inc., owner of Delmarva Power in Delaware and Maryland. They aren’t against wind power per se, but simply don’t believe it should be subsidized.  “It’s time to declare victory on moving wind energy from a nascent industry to a mature business,” a representative is quoted, “and let the [Production Tax Credit] remain expired.”  Also, on a somewhat less noble note, Exelon would like to see nuclear power added to the list of renewable power sources for purposes of Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standards.  The Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, which wants the PTC perpetuated, has reportedly intervened in the merger case in Delaware and is working to do so in other states.
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8/31/14, A1/A26, In treasurer’s race, GOP has fight within, Jonathan Starkey – Treasurer’s Chip Flowers’ woes & withdrawal have handed Delaware Republicans “an opportunity to snatch a statewide office from the state’s dominant Democratic party.”  This report bemoans, however, that there will be “a divisive primary” between Ken Simpler (47, experienced money market manager and first-time political candidate) and Sher Valenzuela (60, Milford businesswomen, “entered the race just before the July filing deadline” albeit she did run for lieutenant governor in 2012).  Simpler is reportedly favored by establishment Republicans, as suggested by a big picture of him (on A26) talking with John Fluharty and Charles Copeland, glowing comments of former Governor & then Representative Mike Castle, and public comments of Sen. Gerald Hocker (Ocean View Republican) that Valenzuela has “a great political future” but should “pull out and get behind Ken.” For her part, Valenzuela draws support from more conservative figures in the GOP, such as Sen. Dave Lawson (Marydel) and Sen. Colin Bonini (Dover). At a recent debate (for Republican contenders in the US Senate & treasurer races) organized by the Delaware Republican Party, Valenzuela declined to participate – implying a gap between her and establishment Republicans. (For discussion, see this story from the Delaware State News. http://tinyurl.com/oteqbao ) Left with no one to debate, Simpler told the audience that “your money should be managed by someone with actual money management experience,” and since Democrats have a registration edge and ample financial resources “the one thing we can do is outthink them, out idea them.”  The two candidates did meet at a debate sponsored by the Sussex County Women’s Republican Club.  The debate ground rules did not allow the media to take pictures of, video or record the action, ostensibly because media coverage could cause distractions.  There has since been some back and forth (in written statements) between the two candidates, with Simpler stating that “my opponent likes to talk about openness and transparency, except when it’s inconvenient” and Valenzuela saying Simpler agreed to the debate rules and for him “to act like he opposed them is the height of hypocrisy.”  Party members are said to “hope that a primary will not hurt the party’s chances” like “the schism caused by [Christine] O’Donnell upsetting [Mike] Castle [in the 2010 primary,] only to lose handily to [Democrat] Chris Coons” in the general election.  We tend to agree with Valenzuela that a cautious, establishment-focused strategy is not going to gain much traction for the Republicans – they need to be prepared to break new ground.  Compare her statement about why she is running (next story) to the earlier statements by her opponents:  Money-management experience critical for next state treasurer, Ken Simpler, 8/25/14; Give all Delawareans the chance to reach their financial goals, [Democratic candidate] Sean Barney, 8/25/14.
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8/31/14, A18, [Delaware needs] an active leader for more jobs and less government, Sher Valenzuela – This column is trained on two targets (Sean Barney is not mentioned), Chip Flowers who was “living the high life on the taxpayers’ dime” and primary opponent Ken Simpler who is described as “a status quo insider with a demonstrated record of advocating tax hikes.” The tax hike comment is based on Simpler’s role in a 2010 proposal “to turn part of Delaware Seashore State Park into a casino” and raise the state’s share of the take to over 65%. http://sher2014.com/?s=casino  The column notes that investment decisions for the state’s funds are made by the State Cash Management Investment Board, not the treasurer (undercutting the value of Simpler’s past money management experience), and that the office has only one explicit duty under the state Constitution, namely paying the state’s bills as directed by the legislature.  However, the treasurer can and should “be an effective advocate on a broad range [of] issues that affect the financial well being of the state” such as “economic growth, fiscal discipline and government reform.”  Accordingly, “I will use my business experience to be a watchdog for taxpayers, fighting for more jobs and less government, not another do-nothing state treasurer.” In terms of specifics, Valenzuela proposes (1) “a Citizens Watchdog Alert to provide Delawareans advance notice of job-killing proposals to raise taxes and increase regulations,” (2) reforms to “our broken Unclaimed Property Fund,” and (3) better use of technology to eliminate the issuance of paper checks “that cost the state far more to issue than the checks are even worth.”  As supporters, she names Joan Verplanck (former state Chamber of Commerce president) and Bruce Bachman (a retired DuPont financial executive).  “They know the most important part of the treasurer’s job is not writing the state’s checks or playing ‘state stockbroker.’ It’s using the influence of the office to advocate for pro-growth, fiscally responsible policies.”  Therefore, “we need a proven business leader, not a former hedge fund manager like my opponent.”  In terms of doing things differently, Valenzuela commits to serve as treasurer without pay or benefits and to be “fully accessible to the public” as treasurer (her personal cellphone number is provided in the column: (302) 682-3623). This is an interesting and rather refreshing pitch, but one does have to wonder how a Republican treasurer with such an agenda would mesh with a Democratic governor with very different ideas.  No doubt this question will come up if Valenzuela wins the primary. 
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8/31/14, A17/A22, Getting to the core: Will teachers be ready to teach the Common Core? Frank Murray (UD School of Education) – This column discusses how a question about odd and even numbers should be handled in a second grade math class under the Common Core standards.  Let’s say students are asked to determine whether a group of 20 or less objects has an odd or even number of members. The applicable CCS is that students should be guided to “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, reason abstractly and quantitatively, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, attend to precision, look for and make use of structure . . .”.  A student named Sean comments that some numbers are both odd and even, and the question is how the teacher should handle the matter.  Teacher A says that all numbers are odd or even, depending on whether they are or are not divisible by two.  Teacher B asks the student to explain the statement, praises him for an interesting thought, and then explains why it isn’t so and moves on.  Teacher C suspends her lesson plan for a full-blown discussion of the conjecture; “the lesson ends as the class tries to decide whether ‘Sean numbers’ should be added to the list of numbers in their mathematics curriculum, but by then time has run out.”  According to the writer, Teacher A did the wrong thing under Common Core, Teacher B did a bit better, and Teacher C deserved “top marks” for doing what was called for.  Granted, some might feel Teacher C wasted valuable time or gave Sean too much attention for raising a point that wasn’t all that clever, namely that a number might be considered “odd” because 2 goes into it an uneven number of times.  But that just shows the need for thorough indoctrination in Common Core concepts so that we will “find a way to respect and reward the ingenuity of students like Sean.”  Teacher C’s approach fits in with bromides like “there is no such thing as a stupid question,” but we doubt it will contribute to more effective teaching.
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8/31/13,A18 Where’s the penalty for bankers who admitted to selling toxic mortgages? Ted Kaufman – Returning to a point that he has made before (see, e.g., “Keeping the Wall Street crooks out of jail,” 2/17/13), the writer complains that bank executives whose mistakes led to the financial crisis in 2008 are not being prosecuted and sent to jail so no one has learned not to commit the same “crimes” again.  His evidence: one civil penalty after another is being levied against the banks, such as the $16.65 billion penalty that Bank of America just agreed to pay, which “looks like a crime wave on Wall Street – but amazingly one without any criminals being held responsible.”  And in that particular case, Attorney General Eric Holder is quoted that “Bank of America has acknowledged that, in the years leading up to the financial crisis that devastated our economy in 2008, it, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide sold billions of collars of [residential mortgage-backed securities] backed by toxic loans whose quality, and level of risk, they knowingly misrepresented to investors and the US government.”  Of course, “this isn’t a blanket indictment of Wall Street executives,” the “vast majority of them are honest,” but “without the deterrent of imprisonment, you can bet there will be future meetings where someone raises objections to illegal behavior and his or her argument is dismissed.”  Some questions: (1) Can you name a single government official who has been sent to jail, fined, or even fired, for the government mistakes that contributed heavily to the financial crisis? (2) Isn’t it clear that the civil penalties have been pushed way too far, and the banks are settling to avoid criminal charges that would effectively destroy them?  Thus, most of the bad behavior in the recent BOA settlement related to activities of Countrywide & Merrill Lynch before BOA acquired them – on an emergency basis, without time for a proper due diligence review - at the behest of government officials.  Compare: The great bank robbery, 12/16/13.
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8/30/14, A1/A7, Board wants to close Moyer, Matthew Albright – Another charter school is on the chopping block, in this case Moyer Academic Institute, which serves mostly at risk youth in the city of Wilmington and has been plagued by “low test scores, problems with its curriculum, high teacher and administrator turnover and other concerns.”  The school was previously closed in 2010 for poor performance and then allowed to reopen as a new school.  If the Board of Education decides to close Moyer again, it will still be open until June.  Reach Academy for girls (only) lost its charter last year, but was kept open for the time being as the result of a lawsuit claiming its closure would be discriminatory.  The handling of these cases seem noticeably different from the vindictive and ultimately successful assault on Pencader Charter School, which specialized in business education and was attempting to right itself after a management turnover. State monitors flunk Pencader, 2/22/13.
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8/30/14, An anonymous threat we can’t ignore,  Catherine Ciferni, Newark (identified as Social Justice Chair of Americans for Democratic Action, DE) – On July 30, the writer attended a community forum sponsored by the organization that she heads.  This workshop “raised awareness of the use of anonymous companies,” which are allowed “to avoid listing the beneficiary [sic] owners” by listing another company as the incorporating entity. Anonymous companies can then be used for all manner of nefarious purposes, such as Medicare fraud, money laundering, trading drugs and weapons, tax evasion, and “[making] anonymous campaign contributions.” The lead speaker was an “international expert” named Stephanie Ostfeld of Global Witness.  It seems that the European Union is planning a public registry of beneficial owners of companies, and the US should follow suit by creating a “50-state registry” to “provide the protection we need against this criminal activity.”  Two previous letters on this same subject were published on 8/20/14.  We’re not sure there is something here that really needs doing, e.g., fraudsters and crooks can make up corporate names whether they are registered anywhere or not.
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8/29/14, A1/A16, Mild summer a joy for outdoor living, but no sign of trend, Jeff Montgomery – This story begins with an upbeat testimonial of  one Delawarean who looks back on this year’s summer as a season when heat took a vacation.  But not so fast, because “preliminary weather records only partly support [the] widely shared view that 2014 delivered a cool summer.”  Next week, the temperatures are expected to be back to 90.  And although the June-July-August average temperature for Delaware may be “the lowest since 2004,” that’s “only slightly below a century-long trend that has been rising at two-tenths of a degree every decade.”  David Robinson, NJ state climatologist at Rutgers, adds that “the last four summers all ranked among the top 15 [hottest] and that goes back 120 years, so after “baking” like this the summer weather this year seems comfortable by comparison.  Maybe the “polar vortex” flows bailed us out, enjoy, but for “the first seven months of the year globally, this is the third-warmest on record for about 140 years.”  Looking ahead, “American and United Nations researchers have reported with rising certainty that global temperatures are climbing, pushed upward by human fossil-fuel burning and releases of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.”  And “one climate change outlook prepared for the state last year projected that Delaware could see . . . about 65 days of 95-degree plus temperatures by the end of the century if [carbon] emissions continue unchecked.” Why isn’t it mentioned that average global temperatures have not risen for 15+ years?  The reporter and his technical sources are acting just as we predicted: Despite contrary evidence, global warming alarmists stick to their guns, 1/27/14.
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8/28/14, Data Centers firm explores Cecil County sites, A4, William McMichael – After UD killed the $1 billion data center proposed for the STAR Campus industrial park, TDC president Gene Kern said the company “remains committed to Delaware,” but this is apparently being rethought.  TDC has not been in touch with New Castle County concerning possible alternative sites in northern Delaware, according to NCC Executive Tom Gordon. It has had some conversations with Cecil County [MD] Development Director Lisa Webb.  According to Webb, TDC is looking at 28 sites, including several in Cecil County and others in Maryland.  Delaware blew it, too bad!
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8/28/14, A8, Panel urged to act on raising minimum wage; Delaware cost of lving higher than national average, Aaron Nathans – The Delaware minimum wage has been raised to $7.75 (vs. federal minimum of $7.25) and “is set to increase to $8.25 an hour on June 1 [2015?],” but critics remain dissatisfied and insist that this amount is “still too little to live on, much less support a family.”  The General Assembly has created a Low-Wage Worker Task Force, which held a public session at the Chase Center in Wilmington on Tuesday, with about 100 people in attendance.  Among those in favor of raising the minimum wage: Harry Wade, head of maintenance at a Wilmington McDonald’s, who earns a $1 an hour more than the current minimum, but complains that the amount is not nearly enough to live on.  Yolanda Moore, Wendy’s, “I can’t make it on $7.75.  I have children and a mortgage.”  David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute in DC, cited studies that “have shown raising the minimum wage would not hurt hiring.  For counterpoint: Sen. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) suggests that since the minimum wage was just raised it might be a good idea to wait and see how things go.  He also cited conversations with small business owners, who have said that moving the wage up a dollar make it unprofitable.  “I don’t see that as a great driver to a widespread economic recovery.”  Isn’t anyone willing to make the real point, which is that the minimum wage is misguided in principle?  Let wages be determined by supply and demand and all concerned will be better off. 
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8/28/14, A8, October Bloom Energy surcharge $5.59, Aaron Nathans – The hypothetical surcharge on a typical customer fluctuates from month to month for various reasons, but the total Bloom surcharge on Delmarva Power bills keeps mounting.  “In hard numbers, Delmarva customers will pay a Bloom subsidiary [hasn’t this subsidiary been sold off to raise cash?] $3.2 million in October, up from $2.95 million in September.  The record was $3.8 million in March.”  The 2011 law permits Bloom fuel cell power to be classified as “renewable energy,” counting towards satisfaction of legal mandates.  According to this story: “Purchases of wind and solar are generally considered less expensive than what Delmarva is paying for the Bloom project, but by how much is open to interpretation.”  Wind and solar are intermittent and therefore not dispatchable, while, fuel cell energy is dispatchable, so the relative costs are not properly comparable.  The comparison should be to combined cycle natural gas, which (1) is much cheaper than fuel cell power, and also, for those who care about that, (2) produces less greenhouse gas emissions.  
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8/25/14, A11, Money-management experience critical for next state treasurer, Ken SimplerThe News Journal has solicited columns from each of the candidates for state treasurer in the upcoming elections.  This one and the following column by Sean Barney are the first to be published.  Mr. Simpler touts his 20-year career in which he managed “a billion-dollar portfolio” and then acted as a CFO for a Delaware-based small business.  He calls this “a pretty good fit” with “a treasurer’s job that at its core is one part money manager and one part finance officer.”  Moreover, “I am the only one in the race with a financial background and actual money management experience.” So forget about claims by the other candidates that they will “effect reform, offer grand ideas and plans or tout goals and visions that may or may not be within the scope of the state treasurer’s powers,” and let’s make Delaware “first in finance.”  After all, the best gauge of what a candidate is likely to do is not the promises but “what that person has actually done” in life.  This pitch should be taken with a grain of salt, as the Delaware treasurer’s job is a bit vague.  The treasurer is not the state CFO, that’s the appointed Secretary of Finance (currently Thomas Cook).  He or she also does not run the state investment funds; there is a panel of experts appointed to handle that function, and incumbent Chip Flowers was slapped down when he tried to assert influence over the area.  Historically, the elective Treasurer job has been more a post for aspiring young politicians (e.g., Tom Carper and more recently Jack Markell) to gain exposure than a substantive position. 
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8/25/14, A11, Give all Delawareans the chance to reach their financial goals, Sean Barney – The writer cites his military service in Iraq, academic background (Swarthmore, Harvard, & Yale Law School), and experience as “policy director to the governor, working with 16 cabinet officers to coordinate and implement policy.”  His platform: (1) “report regularly to the public and the General Assembly on ways that state government can save money,” (2) repair the breach that has grown between the treasurer’s office and the Cash Management Policy Board, and (3) “work with our foundation community and our financial community to establish opportunity accounts [basically college savings accounts] for every Delaware child at birth.”
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8/24/14, A24, Is the way we evaluate teachers a farce? – Is Delaware’s school system “an educational version of Lake Woebegone [mythical location where all the children are above average]” or is the establishment’s claim that “highly effective teachers” are the key to school system success “simply not true”?  Despite stellar teacher evaluations (48% highly effective, 51% effective, 1% needs improvement), DE school performance stats are mediocre.  Maybe the evaluation process is out of kilter, and is not promoting better teaching.  Perhaps there needs to be “some kind of accountability, some connection between the rewards and the desired outcomes.”  This is a management failure, but on the other hand “teachers and administrators are right to point out the problem of children coming to school unprepared, or with developmental and social problems that disrupt their own learning and that of their classmates.”  And, of course, “teachers should not be expected to be police officers.” Astute educators know that establishing discipline in schools is crucial to achieving good results.  If that doesn’t happen, all the educational frills and models in the world will accomplish nothing.  So why is Delaware paying so much for school administrators and overhead if the system is basically malfunctioning?
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8/21/14, A6, MD takes step closer to offshore wind turbines; Delaware unlikely to get associated jobs, manufacturing potential, Aaron Nathans Oh no, “eight years after Bluewater Wind first rolled out its proposal in Delaware, and 13 years after Cape Wind made its proposal for Nantucket Sound, there are still no wind farms off the coast[s?] of the United States.”  But fear not, because Maryland “requires utilities to buy a portion of their power from offshore wind power,” and though the federal tax credit for wind projects has expired, true believers are scheming to get it renewed.  Accordingly, US Wind Inc., an affiliate of Renexia SpA [an Italian firm] was willing to bid $8.7 million for leases covering about 80K acres of ocean tracts east of Ocean City, MD.  By the way, USW had taken “steps to try to secure the tax credit before it expired,” as had NRG for the Bluewater lease albeit backing out of its contract with Delmarva Power.  Now, according to Matt DaPrato, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, MD policymakers and regulators will “have to gauge whether there will be the appetite to pay more for the already high cost of offshore wind.”  The only logical answer would be “no.”
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8/20/14, A7, Two letter writers fault Delaware corporation law for not requiring complete disclosure about corporations registering here – (1) Amy Shay, Newark: Delaware is contributing to poverty around the world by allowing shell corporations to be set up here that can be used for money laundering from countries that are resource rich (oil, diamonds, or whatever) but run by corrupt politicians.  Why?  Because it’s “quick, easy and relatively inexpensive to set up an anonymous company in Delaware.”  And not only does the state not publish beneficial ownership information, it does not even collect it.  Time for the Delaware members (especially Senator Coons, who has expressed concern about global poverty) to support the Incorporation Transparency & Law Enforcement Assistance Act.  (2) Barbara Wilcox, Newark – I recently attended “a meeting at the Kirkwood Library about anonymous companies in Delaware” and was “surprised and dismayed” at what was discussed.  It seems that companies incorporated here “are responsible for weapons trafficking, drug trafficking, forcing foreclosures on vulnerable homeowners and other nefarious activities.”  And as the writer understands it, “there are more companies incorporated in Delaware than there are people [DE population is nearing 1 million].” Accordingly, the Delaware members should “show leadership on this issue and co-sponsor an act requiring corporations to make transparent the nature of their operations and their beneficial owners.”  Seems like an odd topic for “informed citizens” to be concerned about.  We wonder what’s really behind it.
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8/19/14, A5, PSC to vote on limiting Delmarva’s spending; State public advocate calls the spending “excessive and expensive,” Aaron Nathans – PSC vote is expected today on a recommendation to limit Delmarva Power’s planned reliability investments, which the PSC staff argues are excessive. In its 2013 rate case, Delmarva proposed to spend $397M over 5 years to improve the reliability of its poles, wires, transformers, etc. in Delaware.  But it’s feared that Delmarva may be “leveraging reliability concerns in Maryland to increase its spending, from which it can earn a profit margin, in Delaware.”  And Silverpoint Consulting (retained by the PSC) suggests that Delmarva’s time-of-outage metrics are already quite good and that it would make more sense for them focus on a more worthy goal of “modernizing the grid and replacing aging infrastructure to ensure system reliability for the mid- to long-term.”  In May, the PSC staff concluded that Delmarva spending should be limited to $200M, at least until a more detailed annual review process can be formed and more reliable metrics can be created.  Public advocate David Bonar chimed in that the proposed spending was “both expensive and excessive for ratepayers,” supposedly adding $108 per year to the average customer bill.  Comment: at least there is some benefit to ratepayers from the Delmarva Power expenditures, unlike government-approved renewable energy programs that the PSC and public advocate have accepted unquestioningly in the past.
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8/11/14, A7, Coons blasts recent reincorporations, Jonathan Starkey – Senator Coons was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News along with John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable. It was supposed to be a “fair and balanced” debate in which Engler defended the actions of corporations that have executed or are considering so-called “inversion” transactions.  However, Engler’s comments are not reported in this story.  In essence, Coons’s comments are in line with the administration’s position on the subject.  Thus, “the real solution is to move to comprehensive tax reform so we have a more competitive tax system,” but in the meantime it is unpatriotic of companies to take advantage of a tax loophole so as not pay “their fair share” of taxes. Counterpoint: Judge Learned Hand’s famous quote in Gregory v. Helvering, 1934. http://tinyurl.com/m58ntzy  And if Congress fails to act, according to this story, then Senator Coons believes “President Barack Obama should take unilateral executive action” to stop them. The president has played a major role in blocking corporate tax reform, so the tactic of blaming Congress (of which Senator Coons is a member) won’t wash.  Derailing the tax-reform train, Donald Lambro, Washington Times, 8/7/14. http://tinyurl.com/lgvfa3a Further, what is the Constitutional basis for the president to change the tax law by executive action?  Isn’t it the duty of Congress to make the nation’s laws? 
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8/10/14, A21, A looming retirement nightmare we can no longer ignore, Ted Kaufman – The traditional three-legged stool for retirees is disappearing rapidly.  Employers are eliminating traditional defined contribution pension plans, most workers are not saving for their retirements, and the government’s social safety net programs (Social Security & Medicare) are not actuarially sound because the number of beneficiaries is growing vis-à-vis the number of contributors.  Therefore, “if Social Security and Medicare swallow the federal budget and reach the brink of bankruptcy, I don’t see how we could avoid a political war between the shrinking number of workers (predominately by then nonwhite and perhaps Democrat) and the growing number of retirees (predominately white and perhaps Republican).”  It’s not too late, according to the writer, but let’s start making changes now.  His general ideas (“this is a newspaper column, not a detailed policy paper”): (1) Do “far more to encourage or even compel Americans to plan for retirement,” so the rest of us won’t get stuck with the tab, which might entail: “compelling tax incentives [refundable tax credits, since many of the people involved aren’t paying income taxes in the first place?], some kind of forced savings plan, or a combination of both.”  Such an approach is equated with Americans “[taking] more responsibility for their own retirement savings.”  (2) Push “our elected officials” to get started on Social Security & Medicare reform, which is seen as entailing a combination of raising taxes and cutting benefits.  “Taking another look at Simpson-Bowles would be a good starting point.”  True, “the overwhelming majority of Republican legislators have vowed never to raise taxes under any circumstances,” but bear in mind that “the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to avoid an all-too-probable national nightmare.”  Summary: Republicans must change or they will be destroyed, and that basically means accepting tax increases.  The effect of substantially higher taxes on the US economy is conveniently not mentioned.
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8/10/14, Setting record straight on ethanol’s value, Jan Koninckx, DuPont Biofuels – This column defends ethanol, claiming that an August 3 story on “The Real Cost of Ethanol” misstated “a few critical facts” and failed to inform readers about “the substantial benefits this technology brings to the United States.”  Notably, the writer claims that “using ethanol reduces demand for oil and [thereby] brings gasoline cost down by “$0.25/gallon to $1/gallon” or “maybe even more.”  If this were true, why should the government mandate the use of ethanol in motor fuel rather than simply allowing the free market to work? Also, the writer previously claimed (“DuPont offers safer choices than fossil fuels,” 11/21/13) consumers are being saved “50 cents to $1.50 per gallon of fuel.”  Why have the purported “savings” been so sharply reduced in a comparatively short period of time?
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8/9/14, A9, Clean energy is all about science and responsible behavior, Tom Needles (retired from Colgate-Palmolive, member of the DE Bar, resides in Newark) – In prior letters, the writer has defended the economic record of the Obama administration.  See, e.g., “Many more reasons for poor economy,” 7/17/12.  Now he branches out by defending “clean energy” policies, albeit acknowledging that he “[does] not have a degree in science” nor “fully understand the complex data supporting the notion that human behavior is altering the climate in unnatural and dangerous ways.”  Suffice it to say, however, that the scientific consensus is “overwhelming” and the stakes are “exceedingly high.”  Bear in mind that global population has sextupled since the early 19th Century, “great swaths of [CO2-eating] forests have been destroyed and paved over to create heat-trapping cities,” coal power plants “dot the earth and belch toxic waste,” and “technology endlessly creates new and bigger gadgets” that run on energy directly or indirectly produced from fossil fuels.  So “it is more than reasonable to conclude that the spate of record weather-related events occurring worldwide and melting arctic ice indicate we’ve left the hypothetical and are now witnessing the early observational results of an unnaturally changing climate.”  This text is accentuated by a cartoon (reprinted from the Buffalo News) in which a business mogul with a smokestack head is confronting a mild little man carrying an EPA briefcase.  “Cut emissions?!  Think of the ECONOMY.” Behind the mogul, a huge tornado, labeled Megastorms, is flooding a cluster of manmade residences and office towers.  It seems apparent that we must raise the taxes on fossil fuels, because “the free market is not allocating resources in the best manner.”  So-called “dirty energy” enjoys a false price advantage, while the price of “cleaner energy” does not reflect all the cost savings it would bring.  “Promoting conservation and the development of clean, sustainable sources of energy is not bowing down before some ‘green god.’  It is the only responsible thing to do.”  Carried to its logical conclusions, this column suggests a need for population control, restoration of large areas of the planet to their natural state, etc.  The reference to alternative energy sources as “cleaner energy” rather than “clean energy” may be indicative of the longer-term objectives.  Even the IPCC has said there is no clear link between rising CO2 levels and the frequency or severity of extreme weather events, and the global warming trend stopped about 15 years ago (no one knows whether it will resume or we are in for a period of global cooling).
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8/8/14, A12, Seriously folks, Congress is a problem – This editorial slams the “emergency” aid package for the Veterans Administration system.  While providing an additional $16 billion “to end long hospital waiting lists, hire doctors and allow veterans to seek help from non-VA doctors . . . certainly will help,” says the News Journal, “the action is incomplete, not well thought-out and, the biggest problem of all, not paid for.”  As for the short-term fix for the looming Highway Trust Fund deficit that will keep things going until next March, “the bill is disgusting” and the payment offset (pension smoothing) is “a dumb idea” that “comes close to fraud.”  Give Senator Carper credit for voting against this package and trying to cajole Congress into raising gas taxes instead.  Conclusion: “We should demand Congress pay the bills or cut back [on spending].  Stop playing games.”  Given that money is fungible, it might be more to the point to demand that the overall federal budget be balanced and kept that way.  SAFE has made that point to Congress (http://tinyurl.com/ltmv5pd), but we don’t recall the News Journal doing so.  Moreover, there has been a notable lack of presidential leadership, i.e., Congress is not solely to blame here.
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8/8/14, A9, Forecasters: Fewer hurricanes expected, Molly Murray – Last year, predictions of unusually heavy hurricane activity  (which failed to materialize) were treated as big news.  Batten down the hatches; O’Mara says increased hurricane activity is the new normal, 4/11/13.  This year, rightly or wrongly, the predictions are less ominous.  Among the factors cited: lower sea surface temperatures in the tropics and higher wind shear in the upper atmosphere.  However, Anthony Pratt, the state shoreline and waterway administrator, says “we don’t let our guard down.”  And state climatologist Dan Leathers says “there’s still lots of time left to the hurricane season.”  Mercifully, there is no mention of global warming or climate change in the article.
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8/5/14, A2, PSEG Nuclear studies new river reactors, Jeff Montgomery – PSEG started work on securing land for one or more new nuclear reactors north of the present Hope Creek and Salem complex in 2008 – filed application with Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2010 – working with Corps of Engineers on a 631-acre land swap deal that would make property available for new operations on Artificial Island – public meeting to resolve “final NRC questions” on potential storm surge threats at the proposed site is planned for Sept. 17 – and all this before any firm decisions have been made on plant technologies  and design, etc.  PSEG reportedly has “many engineers” working with Holtec International on a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design that would be very different from the existing nuclear power plants.  SMRs are touted by designers as “inherently safe” due to simpler, automated safety systems, deep underground designs, waterless cooling and/or other features.  According to sketches on file with the NRC, the Holtec l60-megawatt installation would be inside a nearly 200-foot tall tube, with the bottom 105 feet below ground level.  Safety systems would be gravity powered, with refueling only required every 42 months and spent fuel stored underground on site for 300 years.  Other design approaches are also in the running, some of which would be on a scale comparable to the more than 1,000-megawatt Hope Creek and Salem 1 & 2 units, but with improved features.  Never mind that the details of any definitive proposal remain to be determined, Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network is against it.  According to her, “the ramifications of the land swap in terms of how PSEG will utilize the lands they receive are severe,” and the DRN is asking for a public hearing on the land deal and extended time for public comments.  With such a multi-stage permitting process, no wonder new nuclear power plants are prohibitively expensive.  There must be a better way to handle matters.   
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7/29/14, A9, Close tax loopholes that send corporations overseas, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew – Column begins with a bow to reforming “our business tax code to make the US economy more competitive and to accelerate economic growth and job creation.”  And according to Secretary Lew, “the president put forward a framework for business tax reform more than two years ago and has been pushing Congress to move forward on it.”  The gist of the plan is said to be “lowering corporate tax rates, broadening the tax base, simplifying the system and eliminating wasteful carve-outs and tax expenditures.” The president’s corporate tax plan was flawed by increased double taxation of corporate income and numerous changes to increase tax burden on offshore operations of US-based companies.  Overall, the tax law would have been complicated rather than simplified.  House Ways and Means should get moving, 2/27/12.  And what’s more, “these reforms would result in savings [i.e., tax increases] that could be reinvested in our nation’s aging infrastructure.” But in the meantime, “one particular tax loophole has become increasingly urgent to address, the fact that the law rewards US corporations with substantial tax benefits when they buy foreign companies and declare that they are based overseas,” a so-called “inversion.”  Nothing wrong with cross-border activities, of course, but they should be based on economic efficiencies rather than tax savings – and some of the individual firms doing or considering inversion transactions “have projected saving as much as $1 billion per year” even though they “are still based in the United States” and plan “to remain here.”  By moving their “tax homes” these companies “are making the decision to reduce their taxes, forcing a greater share of responsibility of maintaining core public functions on small businesses and hardworking Americans.”  So it’s just common sense, a company should “not be able to move outside the [US] if it is still managed and controlled in the [US], does a significant amount of its business here and does not do a significant amount of its business in the country it claims as its new home.” We can just imagine the mass of IRS regulations that would be required to spell all this out!  Compare “Policy makers should make the tax system better rather than banning corporate inversions,” Daniel Mitchell, Townhall.com, 7/29/14. http://tinyurl.com/oetezep
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7/25/14, A1/A4, 117 immigrant children put with families in Delaware, Jonathan Starkey – When initially asked (7/15/14,) Governor Jack Markell said there were no state facilities available suitable to take in immigrant children awaiting decisions as to their status.  Update (based on a subsequent letter from the governor to DE legislators): “The federal government has placed 117 children who illegally entered alone into the US with families in Delaware.”  The Markell administration is prepared to work with nonprofits to ensure that the basic needs (food, shelter, healthcare) of the child migrants are met, and that they may enroll in Delaware schools while awaiting immigration processing.  The federal government has not committed to cover the costs involved, but Markell is “asking federal officials to work with states to cover those costs and ensure that these children receive proper care.”  And the “debate around immigration has been marked too often by scare-mongering and xenophobia,” so relax.  According to the governor, the Obama administration has taken steps to address the influx of illegal immigrants – average deportation time reduced from 33 days to 4 days for adults – 3,500 immigrants being returned to Central America weekly.  And let’s be mindful that “we are called upon to provide for the least of our brothers and sisters” and the US is a “nation of immigrants.”  Sugarcoating the situation like this should not fool anyone.  Many illegal immigrants are staying in the US indefinitely, so the 4-day deportation time for adults must be based on a very limited subset of the people involved.  In any case, this statistic has nothing to do with the current concern about minors, who cannot (unless the statute is amended or repealed) be returned promptly to Central America due to a statute requiring a prior judicial hearing.  And while it’s true that the US has traditionally been a nation of immigrants, that doesn’t mean would-be immigrants should be allowed to enter illegally.  If we intend to retain the rule of law, the laws need to be enforced.
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7/25/14, A10, More to “your poor and huddled masses,” Theresa Garcia, Maryland – Prior waves of immigration were conducted in an orderly manner, says this letter writer, so don’t be intimidated by appeals to slogans like the “give me your poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free” inscription on the Statute of Liberty. “Back then, those immigrants had to pass a health exam and have a sponsor.  There were no government handouts waiting for the taxpayers to dish out.  Many were sent back on the next boat because they were sick or their sponsor never vouched for them.  They also had to complete a process to become citizens.”  We still do have a system to become a US citizen, “and it’s not the current policy of flooding the borders and expected to be welcomed with open arms.” 
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7/25/14, A11, Washington should give states the liberty to help the poor, Paul Ryan – Representative Ryan begins this column by citing poor economic results.  Thus, the IMF has just lowered its projection for US GDP growth in 2014 to 1.7%, “real median household income is still lower than before the recession,” and “deep poverty in America has reached record levels over the past three years.”  Also, the federal government spends some $800 billion a year on 92 programs to help struggling families, “yet the poverty rate is the highest in a generation.”  So here’s the idea: combine up to 11 federal programs into one stream of funding in participating states, thereby permitting the states to try different ways of providing aid.  Safeguards: start with a pilot program – participation voluntary – same money as under current law – “states would have to hold people accountable through work requirements and time limits – at least two service providers in each state so the state welfare department couldn’t be the only game in town – state would have to measure progress through a neutral third party to keep track of key metrics.  Applicants would go to one office and work with one person (“a personal resource”) to get from where they are to where they want to go. In effect, the federal role would be reconceived from “trying to supplant local communities” to helping to “support them.”  And Ryan and his GOP colleagues have other ideas in mind that they want to talk about.  “Our country has had enough of politics.  Let’s talk solutions.”  Some liberals have lauded this concept, but many conservatives are skeptical.  One concern is that a president who was so minded could override or misapply the safeguards to push the liberal agenda.  How Paul Ryan’s poverty plan will weaken states and empower presidents, Conn Carroll, Townhall.com, 7/24/14. http://tinyurl.com/p5rp4yj More generally, what reason is there to believe states will necessarily do a better job of providing a social safety net if they operate within federal guidelines instead of being allowed to run programs as they see fit?  As for funding, why not phase out federal grants and let the states collect the tax money they want to spend in the first instance? Overlapping federal/state bureaucracies inevitably breed waste and lack of accountability. 
Finally, this column does not mention one of Ryan’s ideas that we strongly disagree with – expanding the earning income tax credit for certain taxpayers instead of repealing it lock, stock and barrel. Please, Republicans have tried offering Democratic Lite programs before, and the strategy backfires every time.  Leviathan on the right, Michael Tanner, 2007. http://tinyurl.com/mbbghm7
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7/24/14, A1/A4, Carper fights for lasting highway fund solution, Nicole Gaudiano – The White House has already endorsed a short-term patch to the highway trust fund so the money can keep flowing to states until next year, but Senator Tom Carper is still itching to hike federal taxes on motor fuel.  Carper pushes for federal gas tax hike, 4/20/14.  Delaware’s senior senator will propose an amendment to the bill on the Senate floor making the patch expire in December as a means of putting pressure on Congress to enact a long-term solution (i.e., tax increase) sooner.  This stand and previous votes by Carper are characterized as showing leadership.  “Carper has taken similarly hard positions in the past on legislation he viewed as postponing long-term solutions *** opposed repealing cuts to some military pensions, saying the legislation undermined progress on deficit reduction *** voted against the fiscal cliff compromise negotiated by Delaware’s former senior senator, Vice President Joe Biden [on grounds that] the deal walked away from the chance to enact entitlement and tax reform.”  Is Carper right that the only responsible way to fix the highway trust is to raise federal taxes?  Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is pushing an idea that makes more sense to us, namely start phasing out the federal taxes on motor fuel while encouraging states to collect the taxes they need to repair their respective roads and bridges.  Inevitably, involving several layers of government in the management of a function results in higher cost.  Senate to vote on ending the gas tax, Keith Laing, The Hill, 7/23/14.  http://tinyurl.com/onfs3ve
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7/24/14, A15, Why Affordable Care probably isn’t doomed, Tom Goldstein (an appelate advocate and co-founder & publisher of SCOTUS blog) – After reviewing arguments for and against legality of subsidies for healthcare insurance published on federal exchanges, Goldstein concludes: “My best guess is that a majority of the Justices will cite the limited role of the courts and rule for the administration and uphold the rule by the same 5-to-4 majority that rejected the major constitutional challenge to the law two years ago.”  Realistically, he may be right.  Also, the matter can be resolved in one year instead of two if the DC and 4th Circuit courts refrain from granting en banc review of the decisions of their respective 3-judge panels.
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7/23/14, A1/A10, State would feel impact if subsidies get struck down; US Supreme Court might have to sort out Obamacare rulings, Beth Miller – A US court of appeals ruling in Washington, DC, struck down the subsidies offered in 34 states, including Delaware.”  The 4th CCA upheld them.  According to this article, the 34 states used federal marketplaces that were “partnerships with the federal government,” while “the remaining states either ran their own marketplace or left insurance completely in the feds’ hands.” [The assertion about partnerships is presumably intended to set up an argument that the federal exchanges were acting as state exchanges.]  Some 80% of the 14,397 Delaware residents now covered by GovCare plans are receiving subsidies.  And according to Rita Landgraf, DHHS secretary, “without that level of subsidy, people will be deeply impacted and this insurance will not be affordable to them.”  She expects the DC court ruling to be appealed and, pending a final determination, stayed.  Rev. Donald Morton of Wilmington reportedly knows “that many conservatives hope the reforms fail and the law is dismantled.”  He slammed this purported attitude as immoral since people in need of healthcare would be denied affordable coverage.  Sen. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) says, however, that “the global lesson here is that you should know what you pass before you pass it.”  He expressed agreement “with the state’s decision to link Delaware’s insurance marketplace to the federal exchange” and “said he doesn’t know what should happen if the subsidies are declared illegal.”  
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7/23/14, B2, 2 courts hand down conflicting rulings on healthcare law, Richard Wolf (USA Today) – District Circuit ruled 2-1 that consumers in 34 states using the federal healthcare exchange aren’t eligible for tax subsidies, which “could send insurance premiums for 5 million people soaring by more than 70%.”  Hours later, a panel of the 4th Circuit ruled unanimously that the subsidies are fine “whether insurance marketplaces are run by state or federal officials.”  Not directly affected are the “16 states [that] operate their own systems.”  The White House reportedly said the government would seek en banc consideration by the full 11-member DC appellate court,” which “includes four Obama appointees, none of whom served on the panel that ruled Tuesday, giving proponents of the law cause for optimism.”  And if that doesn’t rectify matters, the case would likely go to the US Supreme Court to resolve the conflict between the circuits. 
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7/23/14, A8, Health[care] law is still far from settled – Conflicting opinions “almost guarantee that [the constitutionality of GovCare] will wind up in the US Supreme Court for another go,” leaving this issue “up in the air again for at least a year.”  Too bad because (a) “the legal battle will prevent the controversy of Obamacare from settling to a point where Congress could actually fix some of its faults,” and (b) “Delaware’s enrollees are directly involved in this developing legal battle,” along with enrollees from 35 other states that “did not set up their own health[care] insurance exchanges.” [Reference to 34 states in news stories overlooks fact that two states folded their faulty state exchanges and adopted the federal exchange.]   The DC ruling is said to be that since the statute says subsidies will be available “through an exchange established by the state,” subsidies for people enrolled through a federal exchange “are not constitutional.”  The three-judge panel “split along partisan lines” with “two Republicans [voting] to strike that portion of the law” on grounds that “the language of the law was clear,” and “the Democrat [voting] to uphold it” on grounds that “the language was ambiguous.” Adding to the confusion, the 4th Circuit upheld the subsidies for residents of all states in an opinion issued the same day.  And Harvard law professor Noah Feldman is quoted that the courts must defer to “a reasonable interpretation” offered by the administrative agency concerned. Nothing is said about the broader principle at stake, namely that the president and subordinates must uphold the law (which was quite clear in this case) rather than reinterpreting it as they see fit. Compare “Upholding Obamacare – as written,” Wall Street Journal, 7/23/14 (no link available).  “Using straightforward textual construction, the court upheld the law the president signed [GovCare] but it vacated the illegitimate federal-exchange subsidies he tried to sneak in via regulation.”  See also “The latest threat to Obamacare comes from the courts,” Megan McCardle (Bloomberg View columnist,” News Journal, A9, 7/23/14. “The core of the government’s case is that Congress cannot have meant to leave federal exchanges without subsidies, because without the subsidies, the insurance markets in states with federal exchanges would inevitably enter into a death spiral.  *** The problem is that the government has done just that [because] federal territories are subject to the mandates, but they don’t get subsidies.” 
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 7/23/14. A7, GE to jump into fuel cell market, Aaron Nathans – GE is building a fuel cell manufacturing plant in upstate New York and expects to start selling fuel cells in 2017.  The company claims its fuel cells will reach “an unprecedented 65%” efficiency, which according to this story “would make it competitive with Bloom.” (Bloom’s actual efficiency rates are considerably lower than 65%.)  A GE representative says its fuel cell will “work economically” and are “a game-changer.”  Maybe, but we doubt the GE fuel cells will be cost competitive with combined cycle natural gas plants, i.e., watch out for subsidy demands in one form or another.
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7/22/14, A7, Corporate moves overseas concern Delaware officials, Nicole Gaudiano – Are US companies moving overseas to reduce their US tax burden by the so-called “inversion” maneuver?  This comes about when the US company merges with a company based somewhere else and reincorporates abroad.  It would have happened to Pfizer, for example, if Pfizer’s offer for Astra Zeneca had not been successfully rebuffed. And will that cut into Delaware’s lucrative franchise tax on US corporations who are incorporated in the First State even though their main activities are elsewhere?  Among those speaking out on the issue are two members of Congress from Delaware.  Senator Tom Carper says the nation’s “outdated” tax structure motivates companies to harbor money and relocate jobs overseas, after having “benefitted greatly from our universities, our workforce,” with resulting loss in “our local, state and federal tax dollars.”  Representative John Carney agrees it’s time to reform the nation’s “outdated, complicated and anti-competitive tax code,” which he says is fueling the inversions surge.  Also quoted is Governor Jack Markell, who draws a distinction between (a) reducing corporate tax rates while encouraging companies to repatriate foreign profits, and (b) his preference that Congress “address the underlying problem” by enacting “broader corporate tax reform.”  He may be thinking of legislation along the lines of a bill proposed by Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and endorsed by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, which would reportedly “tighten the rules [under which inversions can take place?] and save an estimated $19.5 billion over 10 years.”  For his part, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) favors “a broad reform of corporate tax policy that would close loopholes and lower the current corporate tax rate.”  Inversions do not result in shielding income from US operations from US tax.  Jack Lew’s misinformation on the US corporate tax system, Andrew Lundeen, Tax Foundation.  http://tinyurl.com/nvvh3ej Moreover, the concern of the politicians quoted (other than Camp) seems to be protection of “our” tax revenues, when it should be promotion of a more robust economy (the real payoff from tax reform).  Moreover, why stop at corporate tax reform; the entire tax code needs to be overhauled.  See, e.g., “A tax overhaul is way overdue,” 1/14/13.
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7/18/14, A1/A10-11, In Delaware, Obama pushes private spending, Melissa Nann Burke  et al. – In an infrequent appearance in Delaware (we believe he was last here on June 12, 2010 to attend the funeral of the vice president’s mother), the president had lunch (a burger) at the Charcoal Pit and gave an outdoor talk not far from the I-495 bridge over the Brandywine (currently closed for repairs) about a scheme to generate more private sector investment in infrastructure.  Transcript, http://tinyurl.com/m3xqe54.  The specifics described in this story seem sketchy, and understandably so as the president provided no meaningful details in his remarks. “So today, we’re launching what we call the Build America Investment Initiative.  And as part of it, we’re creating a one-stop shop for cities and states looking to partner with the private sector to fund infrastructure projects.  There are lots of investors who want to back infrastructure projects because, when it’s done right, they then get a steady, long-term investment.  They get a steady return. And lots of states and local governments would welcome more private investment, but they need a partner in the federal government to help do some matchmaking and work through some of the complexities of private financing of infrastructure.  So my administration is going to help states and cities apply for federal loans, get more public-private partnerships up and running, get more investment flowing into communities like Wilmington.”  Apparently, the general thrust is some kind of end around the failure of Congress to raise taxes (including taxes on the international operations of corporations) and hike funding for roads, bridges and other infrastructure to catch up with a supposed $2 trillion or so backlog.  He criticized Congress repeatedly in his speech for failing to enact the measures that he has proposed and therefore forcing him to fall back on administrative expedients.  Missing from the story is the fact that the president’s visit took place at a time of international crisis, which is headlined in the USA Today insert: World in Crisis: (A) Airliner “blown out of the sky”: US confirms jet hit by missile over Ukraine; and (B) Israel launches ground offensive [in the Gaza Strip], and that he mentioned the downed jet in his speech before going on with business as usual (and subsequently flying on to New York for two evening fund raisers). “Before I begin, obviously the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border.  And it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy.  Right now, we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens onboard.  That is our first priority.  And I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government.  The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why.  And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home.” The story does mention, however, that “a handful of protestors affiliated with the Oath Keepers and Three Corners Patriots” were standing along the motorcade route and turned their backs to the street as it passed.  Their reported “consensus” was that the president “should not be in Delaware but focusing on crises elsewhere such as the lack of quality care at veteran’s hospitals and the influx of Central American immigrants crossing the border.” 
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7/17/14, A9, Experts doubt Carper’s immigrant plan, Ally Mutnick (NJ Washington bureau) – Senator Carper has reportedly “advocated stimulating Central American economies as the US did in Mexico and Colombia as a way to handle today’s problem of immigrant children entering the US in large numbers.”  But according to the testimony of “experts in Latin American affairs,” the violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is “too widespread” and “dealing with three separate governments makes a solution more difficult.”  According to this story, about $300M of the $3.7B in additional funding requested by the administration would go to the State Department for such purposes.  Realistically, the solution to this problem is to amend or repeal the 2008 law that is blocking the prompt return of minors from Central American countries that are apprehended after crossing the border.  Senator Carper’s suggestion would serve as a pretext for not solving the problem, and what’s more it smacks of a payoff to the countries concerned.
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7/17/14, A6, Biden loses Nemours trust suit appeal, Cris Barrish & Sean O’Sullivan – One year after the oral arguments in the appeal, “Biden appeal heard in Florida,” 7/3/13, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals handed down a 2-1 decision in favor of the trustees.  The stated grounds for decision: Delaware officials waited too long to challenge a 2004 reorganization of the Alfred I. duPont Trust.  Attorney General Beau Biden, who could appeal this decision to the Florida Supreme Court, is said (by an AG office representative) to be “closely reviewing the decision and considering our legal options.” Enough already, accept defeat of Delaware’s dubious claim and move on.
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7/15/14, A1/A7, Feds ask Del. to help with fleeing children; Markell: No state facilities available, says “it’s a huge issue,” Jonathan Starkey – At least Delaware was asked; the GOP governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, has complained that the Feds transported 200 immigrant minors to his state without any prior notice.  The request to Delaware was described as a temporary measure until the youngsters “can be discharged to a sponsor while awaiting judicial proceedings,” but it’s not clear how the state could be relieved of responsibility once it became involved. Governor Jack Markell’s response: “I don’t really see the possibility of any state facilities housing these kids.  I don’t think that exists.  If private organizations choose to do so, that’ll be up to them.”  Also, Markell said he “would expect to be notified” if the federal government shipped any of the youngsters to Delaware.  But in an MSNBC interview, the governor threw a sop to the administration by accusing Congress of “dithering” on the president’s $3.7B funding request” (basically to look after the illegal entrants rather than sending them back, as has to start happening if the influx is to be stopped).  State Senator Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) said Delaware should be slow to accept any of the youngsters because one way or another the state would wind up paying for them.  Thus, “the one thing we can count on is whatever the federal government says they are going to do . . . they will leave us dealing with the aftermath.” 
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7/13/14, A1/A6-7, Port of Wilmington: Thinking Big, Maureen Milford – Here’s an idea being touted by New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon, the longshoreman’s unions and others.  Develop the 176-acre site in the Riveredge Industrial Park in New Castle (south of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, whereas the existing Port of Wilmington is to the north) as a public-private facility capable of handling the newest generation of large-capacity container vessels.  Connect this facility to the existing Port of Wilmington and the Boxwood plant, taking advantage of already installed railroad lines, and convert the Boxwood plant into an unloading and transshipment facility.  Keep the operation under public control, but look for most of the money (estimate of $400-600 million) to come from private investors.  What’s not to like about the idea?  Governor Markell does note possible conflict with the Coastal Zone Act.  And New Castle Council member George Smiley is quoted that “I think you’ll see Santa Claus come down your chimney first.”  He feels the state and/or federal government, not the county, should spearhead such a project. Also, the recent demise of a proposed privatization and expansion of the existing Port of Wilmington should be borne in mind re the availability of private sector financing.   Kinder Morgan Deal: Port’s future at risk; State has no backup plan to keep it competitive, 3/10/13.
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7/13/14, A1/A7, University of Delaware’s decision on data center is a loss for Markell, Jonathan Starkey & Melissa Nann Burke – Now that UD has rejected the project, all sorts of people are speaking up to say how they really supported it, still want to see the project built in Delaware, etc.  “When the project came under attack by locals,” for example, Governor Markell is now reported to have “made the debate personal” by “saying the project would be good for his hometown, where his mother still lives” and that Delaware needed to “stop saying no” to potential employers.  And DEDO director Alan Levin supposedly warned that “Newark or any place that shoots this down could get a reputation [for being anti-business?].” We don’t recall seeing any such comments in previous News Journal stories about the data center.  State Sen. Harris McDowell, who publicly supported the data center project earlier, is now saying the billion dollar project should be located in Wilmington and city officials in Dover and Smyrna have also reportedly reached out to TDC. Rep. Paul Baumbach (a Newark Democrat) suggests that TDC’s mistake was not going to DEDO before locking in on a site and that “we welcome industrial businesses at industrial sites, and we welcome non-industrial businesses at non-industrial sites.” So, “this isn’t a ‘not in my backyard,’ but ‘put it in the right backyard.’”  Perhaps Robert Byrd, a Dover lobbyist, comes closest to the truth in suggesting that the administration was supporting the data center behind the scenes, but “underestimated from the beginning the negativity that was in the liberal environmental community in Newark.”  Notice how Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark) sees fit to say project supporters have been blinded by the potential for jobs and failed to recognize the data center project’s serious flaws (citing previously reported comments of the UD internal working group that was appointed to study the project a year or more after UD had leased the site to TDC for 75 years).  Also the observation of Newark resident Jen Wallace, one of the leaders in the fight against the data center, to the effect that “if TDC takes its plans to another property [then] she and others will continue to work to block it” because “it’s not a good enough project for anyone’s backyard.”
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7/11/14, University of Delaware reneges on data center lease – The News Journal front page story (UD expels data center as “bad fit”; Size and details of proposed power plant raised concerns; local opponents praise university for standing with community, A1/A6, Melissa Nann Burke & Adam Taylor) and editorial on A12 (What is next act in data center drama?) broke the news.  It’s interesting that a UD study group that came down against the project saw fit to claim that (a) the size of the power plant raised doubt about TDC’s claims of energy efficiency, and (b) the project plans were “not consistent with a high quality development and first-class science and technology campus.”  If so, why did UD lease the land to TDC for the project in the first place?  And why not a word of apology for wasting the time and energy that TDC put into developing a site-specific proposal?  TDC CEO Gene Kern is quoted that he disagrees that UD can terminate the lease for the reasons stated.  TDC is reportedly evaluating its options, but “remains committed to developing a first-class data center within the state of Delaware.”  The editorial muses that there might be a legal challenge, although such a course would not strike us as productive.  County Executive Tom Gordon notes that there has been some effort to identify possible alternative sites, of which those mentioned are the former GM (and then proposed Fisker) plant on Boxwood Road, the shuttered Evraz Claymont Steel plant, and 41 acres of farmland owned by Woodlawn Trustees at the Beaver Valley Road intersection with Concord Pike.  However, he said, TDC hasn’t “contacted us on any of it.”  Governor Jack Markell, who reportedly “championed and defended the TDC project,” was “too busy at a National Governors Association meeting in Nashville Thursday to discuss the developments” according to an e-mail from his staff.  Economic development director Alan Levin said he was unaware of any other locations that TDC is exploring, but “remains very much in support of their creation.”  State Sen. Harris McDowell is reportedly hopeful that “Delaware can find another location for TDC and the jobs and tax revenue it would generate,” and he expressed appreciation that UD had made a decision rather than continuing to dither about the project.  The News Journal doesn’t seem to blame any of the players in this controversy except for TDC, which “never had control of the public narrative,” and the handful of state legislators that attempted to sway UD and Newark in favor of the data center by “heavy-handed threats” of retaliation.  The possible conclusion that Delaware does not welcome business development and potential investors should look elsewhere is obliquely suggested by a series of questions, ending with: “Is there a lesson to be learned on how to properly and efficiently approve industrial proposals?” and “We hope so.  A lot of future jobs are riding on that lesson.” A sad story, which sheds little credit on most of the political leaders involved.
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7/9/14, A8, DNREC says it erred on permit for Bloom; As fuel cells age, they become less efficient, Aaron NathansPhoto of outdoors electric power installation of some kind: “The Bloom Boxes installed at two Delmarva substations are the primary generator for Bloom’s subsidy in Delaware.” A class-action suit against Delmarva Power and its parent company based on lower efficiency than specified in its operating permits was reported on 7/1/14. This follow-up story attributes the challenge to “citizen activists” and identifies the plaintiff “in a recent lawsuit against Delmarva” as “a Middletown resident.” Otherwise, the focus is on the reaction by parties on the other side of the issue.  DNREC officials are reportedly saying “they forgot to update the permit as the project grew larger at a Delmarva Power substation” and will reissue the permit for the larger of the two substations promptly (today) to allow the Bloom fuel cells “to consume more natural gas.”  According to DNREC representative Michael Globetti, the new maximum monthly average will be 0.173 million cubic feet per hour.  Robert Braun from the mechanical engineering department of the Colorado School of Mines is quoted that the fuel cells are probably degrading as they age, which is to be expected, but at the current 47% efficiency rate their performance is still pretty good for a small energy installation.  Ajay Prasad of the UD fuel cell research center adds that fuel cells degrade over time like a battery and “the best performance you get . . . is the day you take it out of the box.”  Delmarva declined comment calling the issue a Bloom matter.  Bloom representative Bryan Horsey reportedly said “the company studied the discrepancy and . . . DNREC would issue the proper permit for the project at the larger of the two substations.” Query: Can DNREC unilaterally revise the permit like this or is some sort of public input or authorization required? 
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7/9/14, A1/A4, Five key races to watch as filing deadline passes, Jonathan Starkey – At the last minute, Sher Valenzuela (ran for Lt. Governor in 2012) filed for Treasurer and Kevin Wade (ran against Senator Tom Carper in 2012) filed to run against Senator Chris Coons.  Wade will first face Carl Smink, a Milton retiree, in a Republican primary.  In announcing, Wade had this to say: “We need people in Washington who are willing to bridge the divide left and right, and come up with common sense solutions.  Too often (Coons’) votes down there seem to reinforce and worsen the partisan divide.”  Representative Ian Koski stated that Senator Coons looks forward to a constructive and vigorous campaign this fall.” but “right now, he is focused squarely on serving his neighbors in Delaware.”
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7/6/14, A21/A27, Divided America: Can the two sides be made whole? John Sweeney – This extended column cites a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the proposition that “the American people are barricading themselves in ideological silos, blocking out any dissenting thoughts and nurturing ill will toward the people in the other party.” 27% of Democrats see the GOP as threatening the nation’s well being, while 36% of Republicans return the favor. First it was Congress, now the problem has spread to “we the people.”  And by the way, the worst offenders are informed and engaged, while “the 10 percent of us who do not vote and do not care get along perfectly.” The poll identifies three blocs that are particularly influential: “Steadfast conservatives” (12%), business conservatives (9%, by difference), and “solid liberals” (15%).  A growing number of voters are said to be “ideologically consistent,” i.e., they follow the party line on almost every issue.  “Of course, there are some [independent thinkers],” but “you will not find them among the most politically active in either party.”  And so forth, ending with how democracy needs willingness to compromise and trust.  We give up, what is the proposed solution to the issue posed? Also, the discussion obscures an important point: Democrats have veered more sharply to the left since the mid 1990s than Republicans have moved right.  The three liberal myths about partisanship busted by Pew’s new poll, Kevin Glass, Townhall.com, 6/12/14. http://tinyurl.com/mpzmzkl
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7/1/14, A6, Suit attacks Bloom box energy claims; Filing against Pepco says servers aren’t efficient, Aaron Nathans  – “Bloom Energy servers are not as energy efficient as claimed, a Middletown man [William Whipple III] alleges in a lawsuit against Delmarva Power and its parent company, Pepco Holdings, Inc.”  This story describes the proceeding as “cast as [more properly “is”] a class-action suit on behalf of all of Delmarva’s customers.”  The suit “alleges that the electrical project [two generating facilities with Bloom fuel cells] is using more natural gas and is thus creating more pollution [and also buying more natural gas, which is then charged to Delmarva customers via the Bloom Energy surcharge] than allowed under its permits with [DNREC].”  According to the complaint filed by “Whipple’s attorneys,” the permits allow a heat rate of 6.6 million BTU per Megawatt hour, while in practice the heat rate has been consistently higher than that, e.g., “as high as 7.16 [8.5% overage] in May.” Therefore, the Bloom servers “do not operate as efficiently as claimed.”  Further, Delmarva “‘knowingly and recklessly concealed or suppressed its knowledge that the Bloom servers consumed more natural gas and, therefore, emitted more carbon dioxide than allowed under the permits with the intent to deceive its electricity customers’ into believing that use of the Bloom servers would create cleaner electricity in exchange for a higher electrical charge.”  Michael Globetti, on behalf of DNREC, said the heat rate “is not a direct permit restriction for Bloom,” and also that one should look at monthly natural gas consumption and yearlong totals.  Ajay Prasad, director of UD’s Center for Fuel Cell Research, reportedly minimized “Whipple’s contention” about natural gas consumption on grounds that “when engineers quote a number, there is always a plus or minus attached to that” and the actual heat rate record was “in the ball park.”  Representatives of Delmarva and Bloom declined comment. Whipple described himself as politically conservative and said he lent his name to the suit [he also expressed his conviction of the suit’s merit], but was not paying for it and was unsure who was doing so. “There are a lot of people involved,” he said.  Thomas Driscoll III, the Wilmington-based attorney who signed the suit, “did not immediately return a call seeking comment.” 
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6/30/14, A1/A6, Data center looks at site options “in addition” to Newark; UD working group finishing report, Melissa Nann Burke – TDC is reportedly “exploring other potential sites” but they are “being considered . . . in addition to – not in place of – the Newark site” according to representative Ken Grant.  A UD working group appointed last fall is wrapping up a report on the proposal that will likely be submitted to the UD administration “within the next month.”  The legislative hold on $3M of funds for UD is in the process of being lifted in Dover.  DNREC has received the additional data requested from TDC, and will rule on the request for state air-quality permits in due course.  A public hearing on the permit is expected later this year.  Project opponents have sued in an attempt to have Newark’s zoning approval overruled, and the parties are currently finalizing a schedule for submitting briefs to the Delaware Superior Court.
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6/29/14,A27, Why are humans endangering their future with climate change denial? Ted Kaufman – The writer has commented about manmade global warming repeatedly, and his views are well known. See, e.g., “Climate change’s effects are too critical to ignore,1/19/14.  In this column, he claims among other things that polls (e.g., a recent Washington Post/ABC effort) show “a bipartisan majority is in favor of federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions and is willing to pay for them with higher energy bills [of, say] 20 dollars a month.”  Accordingly, “you might think opposition would be more muted to the EPA’s recent draft proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent by the year 2030.” But no, the usual suspects – such as the US Chamber of Commerce, which is “predictably against any and all government regulations,” says the Clean Power Plan “will cost the economy an average of $51 billion and 224,000 jobs a year through 2030.”  Other observers (the EPA, Goldman Sachs, and the National Resources Defense Council) are far more optimistic, and indeed foresee potential economic gains from a surge in “green” energy investment.  Who is right about the economic costs?  “It seems to me the question isn’t very important” unless one is “in a state of denial about the NASA study” showing that “a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline,” which could supposedly lead (over some unspecified time period) to a global sea level rise of 4 feet that would “virtually wipe Miami off the map.” Kaufman fails to mention that the EPA’s proposed issuance of sweeping restrictions on carbon emissions is legally dubious and represents an obvious attempt to circumvent Congress, which is supposed to write the nation’s laws.  SAFE to Congress: Bin the Clean Power Plan, 6/16/14.  As for the Antarctic ice sheet, compare: Chilling the melting Antarctica hysteria, William Balgord, Washington Times, 5/22/14. http://tinyurl.com/m79zob7
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6/26/14, A11, Put a price on carbon to lessen climate disruption, Chad Tolman (climate chair of the League of Women Voters of Delaware) - A dedicated global warming alarmist, Mr. Tolman has written many columns and letters on this subject. His latest effort begins by noting that on June 9 the national League of Women Voters passed a resolution proposed by the Delaware chapter to support “a price on carbon emissions that will increase in stages, as part of an overall program to improve energy efficiency and to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, fast enough to avoid serious damage to the climate system.”  How appropriate that Delaware should take the lead in the manner as “we have the lowest average elevation (60 feet) of any state in the US.”  The ensuing discussion largely repeats Tolman’s prior writings. See, e.g., “How smoking tobacco is like burning fossil fuels,1/17/14.  However, several points seem noteworthy: (A) Updating of terminology: Previously, “we have heard the terms global warming or climate change connected to these catastrophic events.”  However, it is now asserted, “a better term would be ‘climate disruption.’”  What’s next, “climate variability?” (B) Tolman states that “based on Earth’s past climate record, we are already committed to a sea level rise of at least 50 feet!”  Sounds like Delaware could be in trouble, but the time period is not specified.  (C) The column advocates “leaving at least 80 percent of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground.” This differs from the traditional argument that renewable energy must start being used ASAP lest the world run out of oil and natural gas.  (D) Some ideas are floated about how a carbon tax might work.  The Citizens Climate Lobby advocates “[collecting] a carbon fee on all carbon at its source,” and then “[returning] it to all adult citizens on an equal per capita basis.”  As a result, “those who use less gas and electricity than the average person and produce less carbon pollution would get a rebate for more than they spend,” while “those who cause more pollution than the average would spend more than they get back.”  Also, land use taxation would be adjusted so as to “encourage more dense urban development and the subsequent reduction of greenhouse gases from private cars.”  Sounds like the goal may extend beyond saving the planet, e.g., to wealth redistribution and bureaucratic interference with people’s lives.  Tolman’s call to action is for “people of all genders, ethnicities and ages” to join the League of Women Voters in its important work.
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6/25/14, Delaware needs intervention on special education; Without improvement, loss of funds, corrective actions possible, Matthew Albright - The US Department of Education is reportedly cracking down on states that have not been setting a high enough bar for “special needs” students and letting too many of them opt out of achievement tests. Delaware, California, Texas, Washington D.C., the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Virgin Islands got the lowest marks in the survey and were placed in the “needs intervention” category.  Most states were scored “needs assistance,” with only 15 being labeled “meet[s] requirements.”  The guiding standard was the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  A Delaware educator is quoted that “we know we have more work to do to better serve these children” and “are committed to using the information in the report to assess and improve outcomes.”  Sen. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) called the results “embarrassing,” and some parents of special-needs student reportedly are not surprised by “Delaware’s poor marks.”  Bill Doolittle, president-elect of the Delaware PTA, says that the pace of the Department of Education’s progress “is well below the pace needed to address both the ever-growing challenges and needs of our children and the federal compliance standards".  Doolittle reportedly hopes “the rating will bring more support from the [Feds] and possibly additional grants or resources to make some changes.”  Take heart, though, because Delaware scored “meets requirements” in providing services for children from birth through age 2.  Hmm, why is the federal Education Department letting states off the hook on “No Child Left Behind” standards while cracking down on standards for special education?  And what kind of services are the states being required to provide for infants?  This kind of story simply reinforces our conviction that federal intervention in the educational system does more harm than good. http://tinyurl.com/ozafzuv
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6/25/14, A8, A child-like threat – In essence, this editorial likens state legislators that have threatened to take away the Alderman’s Court in Newark if the city leaders don’t get behind the proposed data center as acting like “the kid who threatens to stop a losing game by taking his ball home” – i.e., being sore losers.  For background, see “Bill seeks to pressure Newark on data center,” 6/20/14.  While the tactic in question is admittedly dubious, the tactics of the data center opponents (breathlessly and uncritically reported by the News Journal over the past several months) have been far worse.  And at least Sen. Harris McDowell and Reps. Michael Mulrooney & Dennis Williams are supporting the data center, an eminently worthwhile project that would do some real good for the Delaware economy, rather than allowing themselves to be cowed into silence. 
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6/22/14, A30, “Sustainability” not a dirty word, Dr. Cory Budishak (Wilmington) – This letter was written in response to “‘Sustainability’ is more about faith than science,” John Nichols, 5/14/14. http://tinyurl.com/lf6nqcb After quoting Nichols that “sustainability means whatever the user wishes it to mean,” the writer provides his own interpretation of the word as “a helpful framework to discuss complex problems and come up with solutions that not only keep in mind the current generation’s needs but also that of future generations.”  Social development, ecological protection and economic development “should not be viewed as competing spheres,” as they all co-exist.  Consider the fate of the Easter Islanders, who once had “a complex civilization [with] the famous statutes,” but made the mistake of cutting down all the trees on the island to build canoes for deep-sea fishing. “This led to the collapse of their civilization,” and “less than 1,000 people remained when the first Europeans set foot on the island.”  The fatal mistake was failing to see that their economy and society existed inside their environment.  As for Nichols’ warning of the destruction of unsubsidized jobs, nothing could “be further from the truth.” Reference a recent IMF report putting “the cost of global fossil fuel subsidies at $2 trillion or the equivalent of 8 percent of government revenues [So government revenues = $25 trillion? Sounds like a pitch for a tax increase.].  Notice the hidden costs of fossil fuels (a subsidy for producers since they are borne by society): “human health effects, ecosystem damage, crop output, and many other factors.” It might be well to take such estimates with a proverbial “grain of salt.”  So instead of “subsidizing this dirty industry with exhaustible fuel supplies,” we should set about “laying the foundation for an energy system that will last many generations.”  Otherwise, “we risk becoming like the Easter Islanders.” Here’s a long account of the Easter Islands experience, written from an environmentalist perspective. http://tinyurl.com/2af6uf Not all of the palm trees were used for boats; some were burned as fuel or used in transporting the huge statutes from stone quarries to where they were put in place.  The apparent moral is that it is urgent to control human reproduction, lest the Earth’s population outstrip the available resources. “Easter Island is Earth writ small. Today [written in 1995], again, a rising population confronts shrinking resources. *** If we continue to follow our present course, we shall have exhausted the world's major fisheries, tropical rain forests, fossil fuels, and much of our soil by the time my sons reach my current age.”  In the past, human reproduction rates have fallen in tandem with social and economic progress – with the result that the dour predictions of Malthus et al. proved wide of the mark.   Establishing artificial constraints on the uses of technology is not smart, it’s self-defeating.  And by the way, the real reason for the decline of the Easter Island culture may have been the extravagant production of stone statutes – no doubt in accordance with the wishes of the governing authorities - which served no useful purpose. 
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6/21/14, A7, With addition of children, border problem simply worsens, Kevin Wade – The writer recaps the lamentable story of the deluge of minors seeking to enter the country illegally after transiting Mexico from Central America.  He blames US officials who allegedly fed “rumors about an open border,” and points out that the problem developed on the president’s watch.  “I don’t see how any person can support what is happening.”  Accordingly, “I ask the congressional delegation from Delaware to stand up to the president . . . publicly and clearly.  This is not the time to calculate the political odds or wait in the wings.  You need to do the right thing.  You need to do it now.  Now it involves the kids.”  Mr. Wade is a potential opponent for Senator Chris Coons in November.  His points seem well taken, although an accompanying column (“Central American children’s march challenges self-identity,” Harold Meyerson, American Prospect editor), manages to muddy the waters.  (1) The administration “has set a record for deportations” [by changing the way the numbers are compiled and reported].  (2) It’s not true that the US won’t send back unescorted children, as it will do so if there are no relatives already here, the children’s lives won’t be endangered if they are sent back, etc. (3) The new arrivals are likened to previous waves of immigration that “throughout much of our history we welcomed,” from which one might conclude that it is immoral or selfish to secure the border and require new arrivals to come here in accordance with US law. 
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6/21/14, A1/A8, Sturgeon killed at Salem in “shocking numbers,” Jeff Montgomery – Cooling water intakes for the Salem nuclear plant are trapping and killing sturgeon at rates “dozens of times higher than federal or company projections.”  The information was reportedly gleaned from a review of regulatory agency filings by the News Journal, and prompted highly critical comments from Maya von Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper conservation group.  “We don’t have enough [sturgeon] to be sacrificing for good reasons, and certainly not for bad reasons like cooling water intake structures.” A company representative confirmed the numbers and said sturgeon might have been getting snagged by mechanical rakes used to clear away river bottom “trash bars” at the intakes.  Changes to the raking method were made in April.  Also, some dead sturgeon might have been killed by ship strikes versus the intakes.  The fish losses will likely be cited in coming battles over renewal of cooling water intake permits for the Salem plant and the Delaware City oil refinery.  PSEG has warned that costs to retrofit intakes for Salem (Units 1 & 2) “could hit $1 billion, a potentially crippling amount for the operation.” This issue keeps getting brought up.  The previous story: New EPA water rule takes fire [from environmentalists for not being tough enough], 5/20/14.
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6/21/14, Harker not serving UD well, John Reddington, Newark – This letter characterizes UD President Patrick Harker as “a man not about to react to his higher rank by widening his field of vision.”  Harker was wrong to “shut down a longtime, thriving, nationally prominent training program for the creation of theater professionals,” while leaving in its place “a professional repertory company, an elevated version of the Delaware Theater Company.”  He lets parking garages on campus “charge $2 per hour, even if a customer overstays by one second.”  And he is betraying the STAR campus, which was supposed to be a science park, by allowing Bloom Energy to build on the site and now by leasing acreage to TDC’s “power plant and data storage center,” which would “pollute the area” with emissions.  So a “Chrysler” is back in town, maybe not as smelly but probably doing far more damage.” Accordingly, “maybe it’s time for alumni to start withholding donations . . . until [President Harker] learns that his business school instincts don’t serve him well in his new many-faceted, people-centered universe of responsibility.” What do the theater and parking charges have to do with the data center, and why would the data center do “far more damage” than the Chrysler plant did?
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6/20/14, A4, Bill seeks to pressure Newark on data center, Melissa Nann Burke – First, it was a bill setting aside $3 million in state funding for the University of Delaware, sponsored by Sen. Harris McDowell.  Lawmakers pressure UD on data [center], 5/30/14.  Now, Rep. Mike Mulrooney (D-Pennwood) is sponsoring a bill that would abolish Newark’s longstanding Alderman’s Court.  In both cases, the intent is to signal support for TDC’s data center proposal and thereby hopefully stiffen the spines of decision makers in the Newark/UD scheme of things.  According to Rep. Mulrooney, the purpose of HB 410 is simply “to send a message to the City of Newark that [the data center would be] a big revenue generator for you [and] you need to consider this.”  Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) is quoted as complaining that HB 410 is an attempt to rush and “bully” Newark officials who have “taken time to look at facts” about a complex project.  The reluctance of many political leaders, e.g., Governor Jack Markell and Republican legislators, to take on the irrational opposition to this project is quite disappointing.
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6/18/14, A9, Let’s get the facts right on just why the state needs gas taxes, David Stevenson (CRI) – First of all, according to the writer, the reason for a gas tax increase was not to fund highways and bridges – as such – but rather “so $40 million in general fund revenue, traditionally slated for highway construction, could be used to fill other spending priorities.”  With Highway Trust Fund revenue up $98M since 2009 (while the gas tax rate wasn’t raised, tolls and motor vehicle fees certainly were), and total state revenue up $349M (or 9.8% in just the last year,” we don’t have a revenue problem.  The problem is that the state government wants to keep boosting spending.  Some interesting tidbits: Retiree healthcare benefits for state employees are underfunded by $7B, twice the state’s annual operating budget.  Employee headcount is the same as in 2009, but spending on contracted workers is up $224M or 78%.  Some 27% of the state’s population is now on Medicaid vs. only 19% of the state’s population being below or near the poverty level according to the US census bureau.  By the way, one way to make the state’s highway funds go further would be to look into the procedures used to determine the prevailing wage for the various trades, which must be paid for workers on State highway projects.  Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics average wage, a CRI study estimated that the cost of highway construction would fall about $90M per year and school construction by another $45M per year.  “Some have argued about the amount of the savings, but construction costs would come down.  Legislation is being introduced this week to use the BLS average.”  Good input.  We would add that the big project to reroute 301 through the Middletown area will not produce anywhere near the toll revenue that was envisioned, and is not truly necessary.  Accordingly, this project should be reconsidered. 
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6/14/14, A1/A5, Regional panel to weigh sea-level rise, flood risks, Molly Murray – A regional effort by the new Mid-Atlantic Coastal Resiliency Institute is contemplated to develop a real time, online, coastal flood map similar to what was developed at UD for Delaware Bay following the Mother’s Day storm of 2008 that created “unanticipated flooding in the towns and communities along Delaware Bay.”  So why is this news?  (1) The federal government owns land in the area: NASA’s Wallops Island facility near Chincoteague, VA, National Park Service land, and military complexes in and around Norfolk.  (2) Sea level rise from Boston to North Carolina exceeds the global average of 0.6 to 1.0 millimeters a year, in some cases by a factor of 6.  However, “researchers believe some, but not all, of the increase is likely due to land subsidence.” If there was a period of global cooling, SLR ex land subsidence might reverse. (3) DE Climatologist Dan Leathers’ team helped develop the online Delaware map, which Leathers demonstrated for Senator Carper at the UD Lewes Campus on Friday.  With this tool, it is possible to “look down to the house level to see whether there will be flooding [and whether] access roads in and out of a community will remain open.”  UD is working on a phone app that emergency responders could used to go house by house and scare homeowners into leaving.  Why not make the phone app available for homeowners? (4) Delaware’s congressional delegation was reportedly instrumental in putting UD in touch with NASA officials.  “I am proud of the University of Delaware for being chosen as one of four universities to join the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Resilience Institute,” Senator Carper is quoted. 
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6/10/14, A8, Vouchers would hurt Delaware schools – A Republican legislative proposal (HB 353, the Educational Savings Account Act, http://tinyurl.com/myusknm) that would use money intended for public schools for tuition at non-public schools, says this editorial, is really just a voucher system. Delaware already has charter schools, that should be enough; there is no reason to subsidize private or religious schools.  If HB 353 is simply intended to make a point about the current condition of the public school system, OK, but “real reform must help the students in our schools, not pull students out of them.”  This follows if the goal is to take care of the administrators and teachers in the public school system, but what if the goal is to provide the best possible education for students by providing choice and competition? Compare this summary of the issue from CRI, 6/9/14. http://tinyurl.com/luwur24
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6/8/14, A9, UD’s Harker shares concerns over data center; Also questions need to change open-access law, William McMichael – For no apparent reason, UD President Patrick Harker saw fit to make some public comments about the data center.  His reported comments in this story are inconclusive, e.g., the project “seems to be becoming more power plant than data center,” yet “we have an interest in a world class, first-rate data center” and “think that actually fits the mission . . . and is that kind of next-century technology that we should be supporting.”  UD has hired two consulting firms to study the environmental and power-generation issues; they will reportedly be issuing a report “in the next several weeks.”  Harker also questioned a proposed change in the law that exempts UD and Delaware State from most of the Freedom of Information Act requirements, arguing among other things that proponents had not explained why a change in the longstanding law was needed.
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6/8/14, A29, Geithner and company only paid “lip service” to [Too Big To Fail], [former Senator] Ted Kaufman – The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 was supposed to ensure that there was never another financial crisis like the 2007-2008 debacle.  To this end, it was vowed that there would be no more taxpayer bailouts of banks deemed “too big to fail.”  Kaufman now recalls that he and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sponsored an amendment to Dodd-Frank called the Safe Banking Act, which would have capped the size of US banks, e.g., total assets could not exceed 10% of GDP.  At the time, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America exceeded that limit.  The amendment was defeated, and Kaufman now blames this result on Tim Geithner et al. giving “lip service” to the goal of ending TBTF, but not really intending to do anything about it.  So guess what: “compared to 2008, the largest financial firms today are in most instances larger, more complicated and more interconnected.” And despite the commitment of the present secretary of the treasury, Jacob Lew, there are no signs that a TBTF fix is in the works.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you that Dodd-Frank was a second rate piece of legislation.  SAFE letter to Delaware members (at the time Senators Carper & Kaufman, Representative Castle), 5/10/10. http://tinyurl.com/lfq2oo2 and 6/22/10. http://tinyurl.com/mnf5zp6.  In particular, “the ‘too big to fail’ premise caused big financial institutions to take unwarranted risks. The proposed legislation would simply institutionalize the type of ad hoc decision making by government bureaucrats that proved so troublesome in 2008.”
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6/3/14, UD climatologist David Legates testifies in the US Senate re unequal treatment for scientists who don’t support the manmade global warming theory -  In the course of his testimony on climate change, etc., Dr. Legates related how the University of Delaware went out of its way to require his production of e-mails, etc. pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request from Greenpeace, even though such disclosure was not required under Delaware law and other professors were shielded from similar requests.  It’s a sad example of how an important scientific debate has been politicized, which to our knowledge has not been noted by the Delaware media. http://tinyurl.com/kd9ofs5 (download Legates prepared statement for details).
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6/3/14, local reaction to anti-coal EPA regulations; proponents gloat that other states will bear the bruntO’Mara: EPA’s plan “mirrors” Del. strategy, A2, Jeff Montgomery: Commenting in DC, where he had been invited to attend the announcement of the proposed regulations, DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara likened the plan to what Delaware and other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have done already.  The building blocks were described as: “improvements in plant efficiency, fuel switching and moving to clean fuels and new generation, renewable energy and energy efficiency.”  And by the way, Delaware is already “very close” to the reduction target for 2030, from which one might infer that other states will suffer the most damage from these regulations.  The proposal reportedly “won immediate support” from Gov. Jack Markell, who termed it “bold” and praised the EPA for giving states “maximum flexibility” to decide how to comply.”  Here in Delaware, “by shutting down or fuel-switching our dirtiest power plants, we achieved faster emissions reductions than any other state . . . [while] reducing energy bills through efficiency and creating opportunities for research, manufacturing and construction jobs.” Joseph Minott, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Clear Air Council praised the proposed regulations as a big start, and added that “states like Delaware [not PA, which is not in RGGI] are actually going to be in great shape.”  In the name of balance, there is one paragraph of critical comments from the Heartland Institute, “a group that describes itself as a ‘free market think tank.’” Among other things, Heartland is quoted as saying “this is Obamacare for the environment: guaranteed to raise costs, reduce choices, and destroy an existing industry.”  Politics, progress mix with EPA rules, A8 - This editorial says “the EPA rules are aimed primarily at the coal-burning power plants in a relative handful of states,” and predicts voters in these states may react negatively.  Moreover, it is possible that Congress could destroy the alleged legal basis for the proposed regulations by changing the law, although that could only happen if the Republicans won back control of the Senate (for the first time since 2006) in November. Granted that the regulations couldn’t possibly reverse global warming, assuming that such is going on (it hasn’t been for over 15 years), because “most of the climate-altering pollution is coming from countries like China and India.”  But as the president says, this country needs to show that it “can do more than lecture other countries.”  Good news for Delaware and other nearby states, which “already have reduced pollution by switching to renewables and natural gas and rewarding efficiency.”  Now it’s up to those other states to do their share.
To be sure, “there will be a cost” for the proposed rules,” but “these cleanups would have to come at some point” and “planning for them now and pooling efforts are bound to cut costs and make the air cleaner.” 
Evidence that the Delaware energy policies have unnecessarily inflated energy costs and harmed the state economy is conveniently ignored.  See, e.g., studies by the Caesar Rodney Institute.
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6/3/14, A4, Consultant: Data center “not a green facility,” Melissa Nann Burke & Jeff Montgomery – The gist of the Liberty Environmental Inc. report commissioned by the Newark city council was a laundry list of complaints about the proposed data center project, including a call for lots of air quality monitoring, etc.  Newark group tests power plant’s OK, 5/28/14.  This story reports on consultant Gavin Biebuyck’s oral comments to the council on June 2.  Inter alia,  “they’re proposing a relatively clean plant for a fossil-fuel-burning [shudder!] power plant,” but “it’s not a green facility” because “it’s not using renewable [energy] sources.”  There are also some comments from Ken Grant on behalf of TDC, who pointed out that TDC was not invited to participate in the Liberty review but “could have easily answered some of the questions” that were raised.  As we have suggested before, the air quality review should be conducted by DNREC, which is surely no pushover; this second level of review is a waste of time and energy. 
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6/2/14, financial report for state government shows dismal trend – The DE fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, and thus was 5/6 complete as of April 30.  Comparing results for this period to results for the same portion of prior fiscal years, the fiscal picture is clearly getting bleaker vs. brightening as a result of economic recovery.  See, e.g., the data tabulated below. Monthly financial report. http://tinyurl.com/lzgbpmy (download PDF for April 2014).

financereport-060214

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6/1/14, E1, Bloom reports nearly 150 hires, Aaron Nathans – Speaking for Bloom Energy, Bryan Horsey reported that the firm has hired “close to 150 workers” at its Newark fuel cell plant and is recruiting to fill 70 more positions.  The plant reportedly opened in October 2013 and has been used to fill East Coast orders for fuel cells.  A portion of Bloom’s $16.5M state grant might need to be returned if Bloom did not its employment spending requirements, e.g., $12 million in salaries at the plant by Sept. 2014, and more in future years.  By the terms of the agreement, Bloom “intends to employ at least 300” full time workers by September 2014, 600 by a year later, and 900 by a year after that.  Will Bloom meet the 300 jobs by September 2014 goal?  Horsey promised an update closer to September.  Are all of the “close to 150 workers” currently employed?  Rumor has it that many contract workers have been hired for comparatively short time periods and then let go.  The number of cars spotted in the parking lot has been unimpressive. 
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6/1/14, E1/E4, SEU gets home efficiency program rolling again; But O’mara says changes could benefit Delawareans, Aaron Nathans – About 3 years ago, a residential energy efficiency rebate program funded with federal stimulus dollars was oversubscribed and had to be put on hold.  Now the program is being reactivated by the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), which operates under the name “Energize Delaware,” in a different form: The new program is a combination energy audit, rebate and low-interest loan program, supported by revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (a veiled carbon tax arrangement).  Despite favorable comments about the reconfigured program, DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara et al. complain that Delmarva Power is not permitted (under existing state law) to get involved in the energy efficiency program, which would permit the program to spread more widely throughout the state.  A bill to remove this barrier and “also allow utilities to credit energy efficiency [improvements] toward their renewable power purchases” was passed by the House last year and is now awaiting a vote in the Senate Energy and Transportation Committee. The tie-in to renewable power programs would permit the payment of bribes to homeowners (over and above purchase cost savings) for limiting their consumption of electric power, while avoiding needed investments in new power generation capacity.

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5/30/14, A2, Lawmakers pressure UD on data [center]; Budget panel withholds $3 million in UD funding; Jonathan Starkey & Jon Offredo –At the end of budget hearings on Thursday, legislators on the Joint Finance Committee voted unanimously to “withhold $3 million from the University of Delaware [appropriation] in an [apparent] attempt to force the university’s hand” on the controversial data center/ power plant project.  JFC co-chair Sen. Harris McDowell is quoted that “when people get bogged down in the mud, sometimes you need to get a mule to pull them out.  We want them to get off the dime and decide what they want to do. What we want is to see that Delaware has a chance at 5,000 construction jobs and 900 very high paying jobs.”  *** “Still,” according to the reporters, “it remained unclear Thursday what prompted the JFC vote and what lawmakers hope of achieve.”  On behalf of the governor’s office, Jonathan Dworkin said “we’ll have to talk with the JFC members and the University about it, and we expect UD and the JFC will work out their differences.”  On behalf of TDC, Ken Grant “said the company had no comment on the vote.”   Dave Carter of the Delaware Audubon Society slammed the JFC vote as showing improper political meddling and accused legislators of trying to “suppress and intimidate” the UD working group.  “We’ve always felt this was a political boondoggle much like a Fisker or a Bloom Energy,” Carter added.  McDowell denied that lawmakers were attempting to improperly influence the university’s review, but he also said “I don’t want to wake up one morning and the best shot we had for economic development just walked because their investors got sick and tired of us.”  We have often disagreed with Senator McDowell, and will probably do so in the future, but he is the first politician in sight who has recognized that this project would bring big benefits to Delaware and should be evaluated with reason and respect. 
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5/29/14, A8, UD study: Electric buses can save money; V2g program sends power from vehicle to electric grid, Aaron Nathans – The paper was published May 8 in an academic journal named Applied Energy. One of the authors, Lance Nobel, is a research assistant and doctoral candidate at the UD’s Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration.   According to Nobel, school buses “would be an ideal usage" in the UD’s vehicle-to-grid program.  The concept is to use electric car batteries to store electricity over night and send it back to the grid, thereby earning “a dollar credit for the vehicle’s owner.”  By virtue of having a larger battery, a bus would earn a larger credit than a smaller electric vehicle.   Here’s an illustrative economic comparison for buses:

schoolbus-052914

Although “it doesn’t pay itself off,” says Noel, “it looks good.”  Note that the diesel bus operating cost includes fuel, maintenance, and “a small amount for the value of societal impacts like health and carbon emissions.”  The electric bus operating cost figures in an undisclosed amount “of credits [from] selling power back to the grid."  Moreover, there is an “ethical portion to this,” in that the children on the diesel buses are the ones who breathe the majority of the emissions.” 
It seems likely that other power consumers would wind up paying more for the power sold back to the grid (part of what was drawn out of the grid in the first place?) than it is actually worth.  Sounds like an obvious scam.
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5/29/14, A11, Blue-Green alliance beats discord on data center, Phillip Banowsky (retired autoworker who currently teaches writing at UD and lives in Newark) – The writer blames “groups like the Heritage Foundation” for spreading lies about $70 auto-worker wages and condemning any kind of New Deal as a socialistic threat.  So the Chrysler plant shut down in December 2008.  Then UD, bidding for the Chrysler plant site, “scared off competitors by threatening to seize the property through eminent domain.” When Bloom Energy was invited to build a fuel cell factory, the state helpfully redefined “renewable” energy to include Bloom’s fuel cells, even though they would burn natural gas, with no consideration of “how the earth and its aquifers are contaminated and destabilized to extract gas with ‘fracking.’”  Like many others, I supported the Bloom deal, as “only a small pact with the devil” and “we even got Delmarva’s ratepayers to kick in” and thereby help to create “a few jobs.”  But before we go along with the data center/power plant proposal, “let’s have a debate that includes all the choices, not just those chosen by UD, corporate politicians, and the carbon barons.”  The bad actors in this drama have done their best to turn the environmentalists and the union members against each other, but these groups “need to renew their friendships and envision a future with sustainable industry, thriving communities, and an America still beautiful and free.” If the data center falls through, as the writer apparently hopes, it’s not at all clear that other equally attractive projects will magically materialize.
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5/28/14, A1/A8, Newark group tests power plant’s OK, Jeff Montgomery – The “grass roots” campaign against the proposed data center in Newark continues.  Here are some of the latest developments: (A) Opponents have filed suit in Superior Court to attack the administrative upholding of city zoning approval.  The action was prepared and filed by “an attorney with the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Widener University School of Law.”  Among other things, the suit attacks (i) a determination of a city planning director as to permissible sales of excess electricity (presumably too lenient); (ii) a procedural decision to uphold the ruling that the electric power generation was “incidental” to the purpose of running a data center after one board member recused himself and the others split 2-2 on the issue; and (iii) an alleged failure to make findings on claims that the plant would “impair the neighborhood.” (B) A consulting firm (Liberty Environmental Inc., principal Gavin Bieybuyck) retained by the city council has published a series of claims that the project is seriously deficient from an environmental standpoint.   Among other things, it is proposed to require “several years of air-quality monitoring before, during and after construction,” which could obviously result in heavy costs and endless construction/operation delays.  Note: responsibility to conduct the environmental review properly rests with state regulators, not the Newark city council, and DNREC has not “released its detailed assessment” of the TDC application.  Ken Grant, a TDC advisor, declined to instantly comment on the Liberty Environmental critique, but he did say “our people are taking a good hard look at it, and we’re going to address each of the issues in there.” (C) Newark city council members are still considering a proposal to retract the city’s procedural sponsorship of a $7.5 million state economic development grant for the project.  This scorched earth attack on a basically sound business proposal belies the purported desire of Delawareans to reboot the economy, create jobs, and get the state moving in a positive direction again.  We doubt that the activists opposing the project represent the true sentiments of the community, but so far no one has seemed willing to take them on.  Too bad!
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5/26/14, A1/A4, Rising seas add to storm danger, Jeff Montgomery & Molly MurrayHere is a shocker! If you take a contemporaneous storm surge and add on to it an adjustment for assumed sea level rise (SLR) in the future, the result is a higher – albeit hypothetical – storm surge scenario.  For example: “With a 1.7 foot addition [equated with SLR from now until 2050] to hourly water levels over the past 12 months, Lewes would have experienced seven days with high tides exceeding those seen during Hurricane Irene in August 2011, the eighth highest ever recorded for the state’s oldest tide station.”  Now true, SLR at Lewes Breakwater has risen a mere one foot over the past century, but the SLR alarmists say the increase will continue “at an accelerating rate as global warming expands oceans and melts polar ice, glaciers and frozen land masses.” We continue to view such forecasts as unduly pessimistic, and would think it more reasonable to assume continuation of the historic SLR trend in this region (in large part due to land subsidence vs. global warming).  Re recent reports of unstoppable loss of Antarctic ice, see “Chilling the melting Antarctica hysteria,” William Balgord, Washington Times, 5/22/14.  http://tinyurl.com/m79zob7 There are also indications that global warming/ SLR alarmists worry no one is paying attention to them, which may be motivating them to overstate their claims in hopes of forcing public acceptance.   CNN Boss Zucker: “Tremendous” lack of interest in our climate change stories, Breitbart.com, 5/20/14. http://tinyurl.com/nn6pb28
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5/25/14, A30, Fixing the VA requires real leadership – “Dear Mr. President,” begins this editorial, which goes on to criticize the president’s recent response to problems that have surfaced at the Veterans Administration.  Although the president was right in saying anyone who has “falsified records, skipped procedures to look good or [been] guilty of harming, hindering or delaying care to needy veterans” should be punished, he should also have explained his plan of action to fix the problems.   And by the way, before being elected, Senator Obama promised that he “would clean up the VA’s problems,” but since 2008 he has “not done so” and the system was not properly prepared for the influx of returning veterans as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wound down.  Of course, the VA has long been subject to exposes and scandals, and “it obviously does not have enough money to treat all the veterans we have promised to help.”  But equally obvious, “the VA is so bureaucratic, so hard to penetrate and so outdated in its practices, that the American public has no idea whether the current money is going where it is supposed to go or whether it is being put to proper use. *** A whole department of the United States Government is being questioned.  Such a loss of confidence will have consequences.” Compare “Thoughts about the VA scandal,” especially point C refuting the notion that the VA situation is a fiscal problem, 5/26/14
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5/25/14, A8, Thank You! A full page advertisement paid for by Medicare Today – “Lower cost.  Better care.  More choice. Call today and thank Senator Carper . . . Senator Coons . . . Congressman Carney . . . for protecting Medicare Part D – dependable, affordable prescription drug coverage.” It’s not clear exactly what the Delaware members are being thanked for, i.e., was there a threat to Medicare Part D that they somehow helped to avert?  Also, what interest does “Medicare Today” have in the matter, which would prompt them to pay for this expensive ad?  Per its website, Medicare Today has been operating since 2004, has a nationwide staff of some 80 people, has “trained 175,000 people at 500 local events to assist and enroll beneficiaries in the Medicare drug benefit,” etc. If the Part D benefit were such a good idea, why would it require such support?    http://tinyurl.com/kzjewj8
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5/22/14, A6, Law would require bill transparency; Delmarva Power would have to detail charges, Aaron Nathans – Not fully satisfied with the recent PSC order re billing transparency (PSC approves detailed Delmarva bills, 5/6/14 ), advocates of greater transparency are seeking legislative relief. SB226 would require Delmarva Power to go an extra step by explicitly breaking out the Bloom Energy surcharge; it would also extend the new disclosure requirements to the Delaware Electric Cooperative and municipal utilities.  Two sponsors of the bill, which would have to be enacted by the end of June to take effect this year, are noted in the story.  Sen. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) calls the requirement for billing transparency “a no brainer and long overdue.”  He adds that sponsors are making it known that if promises to detail the various charges (when the new Delmarva Power billing system is rolled out next year) are delayed or dropped, lawmakers will step in and require disclosure.  Sen. David Lawson (R-Marydel) reportedly could not be reached for comment.  Also unavailable and/or withholding support: Sen. Harris McDowell (D- N.Wilmington), Nick Morici of Delmarva Power, PSC staff, and the Public Advocate’s office.
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5/21/14, A1/A6, Power plant critic’s “elitist” letter lashed, Melissa Nann Burke – Union and civil rights groups denounced a letter to the UD board of trustees from data center opponent Amy Roe, saying she should apologize.  Her letter is characterized in this story as “largely a personal plea” about the potential impact of the project.  In the letter, Roe recounts that although most of the union turnout at a March zoning board meeting was “well-behaved,” some “had been drinking and smelled of alcohol,” and many “acted in a manner that was intimidating.”  Continuing: “These are people that [TDC] will invite into our community to build their power plant.  Are we about to return to those days when I had to fear to walk through my neighborhood after dark?”  Delaware AFL-CIO President Sam Latham pointed out, among other things, that “the Laborers Local 199 in Newark is 85 to 95 percent African American” and “I think she’s aware of that.”  Gov. Jack Markell, who got the letter as a UD trustee, backed the criticism of Roe.  Having gone out of her way to weigh in on a policy decision, Roe has forfeited any expectation of privacy for her communications to decision makers.  Interesting that she was “unavailable for comment” after the story broke; that has not happened before.
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5/21/14, A2, Markell nominates Small as new DNREC secretary, Jeff Montgomery – The governor’s pick to replace outgoing DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara (5/1/14) was announced yesterday.  It is David Small, who has served as DNREC’s deputy secretary for 13 years.  Based on his statements, Small would focus on continuing to implement existing policies, e.g., making Delaware “more resilient to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise” with an unsettled shortfall in the current budget (how to raise more money for roads & bridges, plus fund the administration’s water initiative) being among the early challenges.  Favorable comments from Brenna Goggin of the Delaware Nature Society and Senator Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) are reported; no dissenting views are mentioned.
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5/21/14, A10, Obama must act so heads roll at VA, Eugene Robinson – Finally, according to the writer, here is “an authentic scandal” that may show “more heads need to roll” [as recently announced, undersecretary Robert Petzel will accelerate his previously announced retirement plans] and appears to warrant a criminal investigation.  “If VA hospitals really are falsifying records to disguise lengthy waiting times – and if veterans are dying as a consequence – then the president needs to bring in new management to fix the problem, and fast.”  True, “[Secretary Eric] Shinseki inherited an agency ill-equipped to cope with the tsunamis that were about to overwhelm it: the return of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rapidly growing medical needs of Vietnam veterans now entering their later years,” but he’s also had five years to work on the problem with results that don’t look satisfactory.  Still, it’s important to keep things in perspective.  “Conservatives who crow that this shows government cannot competently provide healthcare are wrong.  VA hospitals see more than 200,000 veterans a day and rank among the highest in the nation in customer satisfaction, according to surveys.”  To Robinson, IRS targeting of conservative groups, “Fast and Furious,” and the Benghazi attack & aftermath are “faux scandals” cooked up for political purposes, nothing to see here, move on.  As to his point that the VA was doing fine except for the fudging over wait times, there is much evidence to the contrary. Unearthing the depth of the VA’s malfeasance, Donald Lambro, Washington Times, 5/20/14. http://tinyurl.com/ptc7gbu
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5/20/14, A1/A4, GOP seeks budget cuts; tax estimates fall; Collections $41 million short of Markell’s spending plan, Jonathan Starkey – Estimates of state revenues for the coming fiscal year were reduced again, this time by $33M in latest report from the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC).  Among the trouble spots: personal income tax, business taxes, and revenue from “abandoned property” (aggressive auditing has promoted growing pushback from companies).  Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson is calling for a 2% across the board cut in operating budgets, and there is a threat of withholding GOP votes on the capital budget unless there is “a decrease in operating expenses.”  Also, resistance to proposed tax increases (hike in gas tax plus new water tax) seems to be firming up.  When costs are out in the open, the public tends to pay attention.  Compare the rather cavalier attitude toward imposition of major regulatory burdens on industry that is displayed in the next story.
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5/20/14, A1/A4, New EPA water rule takes fire; Call for “site specific” intake regulations leaves envrironmental leaders disappointed; PSEG backs “tech nology-based” approach, Jeff Montgomery – EPA issues a long pending rule applicable to 1,000 power plants and factories around the country, which pump billions of gallons daily from rivers, bays & lakes to cool equipment and systems.  Because many of the facilities use the water only once, i.e., don’t have cooling towers, it’s alleged that they “[suck] up and [kill] vast numbers of fish and other aquatic organisms,” thereby depleting stocks of fish, interfering with fishing activities, and hindering efforts to protect endangered species.  PSEG’s Salem nuclear power plant and PBS’s Energy’s Delaware refinery rank in the largest categories of users targeted by the EPA.  A lawsuit intended to force the issuance of regulations in this area has been pending in New York for 21 years.  Environmentalists were disappointed that the new rules don’t require facilities with one time water intake to be immediately converted to cooling towers.  However, the rules call for studies with state or local oversight to choose “site specific” solutions, with public input to be taken.  Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeepers group says the Salem Units 1 & 2 are “the largest predators on the river.”  Researchers have supposedly shown that, in combination, the Salem nuclear and Delaware refinery intakes “kill more than half the striped bass in the river and claim 19 percent of the Delaware’s bay anchovies.”  It’s hard to believe that an arrangement that modestly heats the average temperature of the river water could have such a dramatic impact.  DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara said his agency was still reviewing the EPA rule, but plans to “act quickly.”  PSEG and PBF said they wanted to study the rule, but expressed relief that a “one size fits all” solution had not been imposed.  It’s estimated that conversion to cooling towers at Salem would cost about $1 billion – and no doubt a similar investment at the refinery would be costly too.  Because these costs would be imposed on the companies concerned, readers may tend to forget that they would be passed on to consumers via higher selling prices. 
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5/17/14, A6, Defense Dept. installs Bloom servers, Aaron Nathans – It was a 1.6-megawatt project, installed at the NASA facility in Fort Meade, MD.  The Bloom fuel cells were manufactured in the US, but the press release did not specify whether they were made in California or Delaware.  No mention of cost to the government. Other “green energy” initiatives for the government have been rather pricey, e.g., a recent purchase of jet fuel made from algae at a price of some $150 per gallon.  Washington Free Beacon, 5/7/14. http://tinyurl.com/ozprxu6
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5/13/14, A3, Council calls for power-deal delay; Electricity provider asked to wait on data center agreement, Melissa Nann Burke – Several days ago it was reported that the Newark City Council would hold an “emergency meeting” to put pressure on the municipal electric power provider (DEMEC) not to enter into a contract with TDC to buy surplus power generated at the proposed data center.  Evidently downgraded to routine, this meeting took place last night – with predictable results.  The council voted (6-0) for a nonbinding resolution asking DEMEC to defer signing the proposed contract until the state issues an air-quality permit for the project and the city’s “independent environmental consultant” issues an analysis later this month.  Speaking for TDC, Ken Grant expressed a sense of frustration but said “we hope to work with our community to better explain how efficient and environmentally friendly this technology is.”  Meanwhile, DEDO Secretary Alan Levin put off (for a month) discussion of TDC’s request for an extension of the grant of state investment incentives for the project, reportedly “to allow TDC time to finalize the agreement with DEMEC and settle the zoning appeal related to the project.”
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5/12/14, A1/A4, Bill would open records at UD, DSU; Exemption rare for schools receiving public funds, Melissa Nann Burke – House Bill 331, sponsored by Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) would eliminate the partial Freedom of Information Act exemption for UD and DSU.  The logic is that these universities are supported in part by public funds, so they should be classified as “public bodies” and their governing processes should be available for public scrutiny.  FOIA already exempts “pupil files,” and also “broadly exempts from public disclosure trade secrets and commercial or financial information that is of a ‘privileged or confidential nature.”  Kowalko said that if student e-mails were not protected, he would be willing to amend his bill to exempt them.  Although UD prefers the current arrangement, where only university records re the expenditure of public funds & proceedings of the full board of trustees are subject to disclosure, the story reports that most publicly-funded colleges and universities in this country are required to “divulge a host of information under the open-record laws in their state.”  In practical terms, elimination of the current exemptions “would reveal details on recent issues such as: UD’s agreement to lease campus land for a gas-fired power plan and data center [and] the awarding of large construction contracts to out-of-state firms . . .”.  We understand this bill was introduced as a sop to the unions, which have been displeased by Rep. Kowalko’s opposition to the data center.  How ironic, as the legislation would simply provide new tools to data center opponents
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5/11/14, A23, Keystone Pipeline XL is all risk and no reward to Delaware, Stephanie Herron (Sierra Club, Delaware chapter) – The 1,700-mile pipeline would be “all risk and no reward for the US and especially for Delaware” from one end to the other.  Beginning with “the Alberta tar sands, an industrial wasteland large enough to be seen from space, where cancer rates are 400 times the Canadian national average – tar sands is the dirtiest fuel on the planet – cross some of our nation’s most valuable agricultural land, as well as the Ogallala aquifer – a leak from Keystone XL would be a BP-style disaster on land – ends at the Gulf of Mexico, polluting low-income communities who live in the shadow of the oil refineries there – [all so the oil industry] can sell the fuel on the international market – any talk of Keystone increasing energy independence is nothing but lies – would actually increase gas prices in some areas since the oil is more valuable on the global market than in the US – according to the State Department, the pipeline would create 3,950 person-years of work, about the same as building a shopping mall [and] only result in about 35 permanent jobs.”  So, “if our politicians are serious about creating jobs, they’ll go ahead and pass the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill, the passage of which would support 172,000 jobs by 2030.  Economic studies show that investments in clean energy create three times more jobs than fossil fuels - tackling climate change will create far more jobs than denying it’s happening – Keystone XL is just another handout to Big Oil at the expense of American people.  Sen. Carper knows better than to be fooled into voting for this dirty energy boondoggle.  He should do the right thing and say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.” This attack is long on invective, but short on facts.  Canada will develop the Alberta tar sands whether the Keystone pipeline is completed or not; the question is whether the US or China will be the primary buyer.  The proposed pipeline has been rerouted around the Ogalla aquifer, so that claim is phony.  A good part of the pipeline (from Oklahoma south to the Gulf of Mexico) has already been built and is in operation.  Heavy crude from Canada would undoubtedly displace heavy oil imports from Venezuela, a clear plus from a geopolitical standpoint.  If it makes economic sense to export some of the refined motor fuel, that’s how free markets work – stop trying to micromanage the economy.  The low-ball jobs numbers as a result of the Keystone pipeline are contradicted by more credible estimates from other sources.  As for the claim that “clean energy” investments create more jobs than conventional energy investments do, see “The false promise of green energy,” Morriss et al., Cato Institute, 2011. http://tinyurl.com/mpclkty
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5/11/14, A23, Data center’s power source common and safe, Ken Grant (a Newark resident & media contact person for TDC) – The proposed data center will include a “Combined Heat and Power” (CHP) facility to produce power.  That’s not exactly radical, as there are “currently more than 4,000 CHP facilities in the United States” – four in Delaware –including dozens located within the confines of New York City and the CHP facilities that power the University of Texas in Austin, TX. As for why it will take so much energy (279 MW power plant) to run this particular data center, TDC is not out to build a data center to handle a few e-mails and host a couple of hundred websites – “we are talking about a data center in the same league as the Apple Reno running on 300 megawatts of natural gas, the Supernap with 250 megawatts and the Cyrus One operating not one, but two 200 megawatt substations.  So the people of Newark have a choice.  “We either allow a small group of very sincere, but very wrong people to convince us that a pile of concrete [sitting on an old auto assembly site] is better for our future than using what the rest of the world recognizes as the safest, cleanest, most reliable system in the world for energy production to run the best data center the world has ever seen – or we thank our friends for their interest and we move on to make Newark a place where jobs are created and our future is made by people with vision and innovation.  Let’s get some perspective.”  Environmental review of the data center is appropriate, but Newark and UD should defer to DNREC rather than attempting to create multiple roadblocks to the project. 
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5/11/14, A25, Does the Supreme Court know what corruption really is?  Ted Kaufman – According to the writer, the recent decision in McCutcheon v. FEC will allow a relatively small number of “very rich people” (646 in 2012) “to give far more in the 2014 election[s] than the more than $75 million they have given in the past.”  This on top of the Citizens United decision, “which allows corporations and individual [don’t forget unions] to give unlimited funds to political action committees, supposedly established to support positions on issues, but not candidates.”  The basic theory is that these expenditures are fine because they “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”  But listen up, conservative justices, because recent polls have shown that Americans “have lost faith in the fairness of our system, and they cite how we finance our political campaigns as a major reason.”  And if only quid pro quo donations (aka direct bribery) creates even the appearance of corruption, then look for a return of lawmaking “to the kind of favor-trading bazaar that was common in the Gilded Age.”  So “we now have a system where a very small and very rich segment of the population can anonymously pour literally billions of dollars into political activity” and “I promise you the candidates whose campaigns benefit know who they are and what they want.”  Accordingly, “I believe the future of our democracy is dependent on a renewed effort to agree on meaningful campaign finance reform.”  Kaufman does not, however, offer any suggestions as to what “reforms” are needed.   There is no way to eliminate the influence of money in politics without violating the free speech rights of the individuals concerned, and campaign finance reforms to date have generally done more harm than good by driving political contributions underground.  Doubling down on campaign finance reform, 4/28/14.
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5/9/14, A12, Pro (Delaware Democratic Party Chairman John Daniello) and Con (Sen. Colin Bonini) columns re HB 105 permitting “same-day registration” for voters who show up at the polls without having previously registered -

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5/7/14, New report finds climate change’s impact has arrived; No longer a tomorrow task, the mission now is to try to mitigate the worst harms, A1/A10, Molly Murray & Jeff Montgomery; Climate costs hit home already; Report: Disasters linked to warming will only get worse, 2A/2B, Doyle Rice (USA Today) One breathless story on this subject was evidently not enough, so the News Journal carried two of them.  The referenced report is the “National Climate Assessment” (NCA) that was just issued by the US government. It is said to be “the largest, more comprehensive US-focused climate change report ever produced,” and many dire observations and predictions are reported.  More extreme and variable weather – an increase in intense heat waves and drought – more increased and heavy downpours with increased flooding risk – etc.  The Murray/Montgomery story includes sound bites (participants in the study marked with an asterisk) from DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara; Columbia research scientist Radley Horton*; Texas Tech researcher Katharine Hayhoe*; UD director of water research Gerald Kaufman; Governor Jack Markell; Sea level rise program director Ben Strauss.  In conclusion, O’Mara sums up the benefits of the NCA as follows: “If you can connect sound science with an individual’s personal experience, that’s the best opportunity we have to overcome the noise from the disinformation campaign that’s been waged for the last several years.”  The USA Today story covers much of the same ground (which is not exactly novel, similar claims have been trumpeted in other reports), but also reports pushback from: “Some in Congress and industry groups” (not including Chevron or ConocoPhillips) – several GOP members of Congress who have described proposed new carbon emission rules on power plants as a war on coal – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – a study last week in Nature Climate Change that “found the effects of extreme heat due to climate change might be exaggerated” – Meteorologist Bryan Wood of Assurant Specialty Property Insurance who tweeted that the NCA website “speak[s] in absolutes on some things the actual report has low confidence on.”  Still, “the voices of doubters were few and far between on Tuesday.”  It’s surprisingly hard to determine what person or agency was actually responsible for issuing this report, or find a copy of the report that can be downloaded. See, e.g., http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report, which seems to assume the public wants to be spoon-fed the material instead of reading the actual document. Doubt not, however, as “a team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.” Evidently, the president and his science adviser John Holdren were involved in the rollout.  Moreover, there is an iron hand within the velvet glove.  [White House adviser John] Podesta: Congress can’t stop Obama on global warming, Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, 5/5/14. http://bit.ly/Q7F0pG
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5/7/14, Bloom surcharge falls sharply for June bills; Costs spread out as higher electricity use is projected, A5, Aaron Nathans – The June surcharge will be “$3.67 for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electric power per month, down from $5.16 for May bills (previously reported as $5.26, 3/29/14). As for the total surcharge for the month, it’s expected to be $2.4M vs. $2.9M in May.  The primary reason for the decline is a retroactive adjustment of about $400K due to “an over-collection from Delmarva customers in previous months.” 
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5/6/14, UD faculty opposes gas-fired power plant; Senate votes 43-0 against proposed data-center complex, A1/A12, Melissa Nann Burke – The UD Faculty Senate approved a resolution saying students, faculty and staff  “will not be proud” of the gas-fired power plant that is an integral part of the TDC project.  The senators reportedly deem the project “inconsistent with the university’s core values and its signed commitments to environmental sustainability.”  Even entertaining this proposal is “not consistent with our stated commitment in the [university’s strategic plan] to partner with the city to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of Newark,” says Professor Michael Chajes (former dean of the Engineering school, who drafted the resolution). James Morrison (public policy & administration) backed the language re inclusion of a “fossil-fuel-burning power plant” in the data center on grounds that “we as a society as well as at UD . . . really need to make a statement that we need to get away from fossil fuel as source of energy.”  Vice Provost Nancy Brickhouse asked why use of power from the grid should be considered greener than on-site generation, and Professor Chajes responded that “we can force the grid to get greener” over time, whereas the data center design would represent an irreversible decision. Eight senate members abstained rather than voting “no” and risking condemnation by the conservative majority.  And some who voted “yes” may have rationalized that there wouldn’t be any consequences because, as noted in the article, “the resolution is a nonbinding recommendation.” Hey, dude, it’s a matter of principle!  In a related development, the Newark City Council has scheduled an “emergency meeting” for 6:00 PM tonight to consider a resolution asking the Newark-owned power system (DEMEC) to forego finalizing or executing any power-purchase agreement with TDC, “in part because the project is still under review by UD and by state environmental regulators.”  Under the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine DEMEC chomping at the bit to sign a contract with TDC.  This meeting sounds like political grandstanding, of which there has been more than enough already.
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5/6/14, A6, PSC approves detailed Delmarva bills, Aaron Nathans – As proposed earlier, a limited breakout of mandated surcharges will soon start appearing on Delmarva’s monthly bills with fuller disclosure to be considered after their new billing system goes into operation next year. Consensus emerges on bill transparency, 4/11/14. Civic activist John Nichols is quoted to the effect that he would have liked to see all of the details (notably including the Bloom Energy surcharge) spelled out in the bills before the mid-term elections.  Still, said Nichols, “with more disclosure, legislators may now think twice about adding more hidden costs to their constituents’ electric bills.”
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5/1/14, A1/A4, DNREC’s O’Mara to leave Delaware for wildlife group; Meanwhile, will push for water tax [approximately $45 per homeowner, “piggy- backed” on property bills), Jeff Montgomery – The departure of O’Mara in July was announced after his appointment as the next head of the National Wildlife Foundation leaked out at a meeting of that organization.  Recruited for the new job through a headhunter, O’Mara stands to receive about double his current state salary (which is $127.5K per year).  The article reports numerous plaudits for O’Mara’s accomplishments in Delaware during the 5 years he was here, and only a few critical comments such as that he did not stop the Delaware City refinery from installing “a massive crude-by-rail off-loading terminal . . . with little public review or oversight.” O’Mara’s wife, an attorney, is currently serving as Governor Markell’s education policy adviser.  The couple plans to continue living in Wilmington “for the foreseeable future” while O’Mara commutes to NWF’s headquarters in Reston, VA. None of O’Mara’s true critics, who believe he stuck the state with the Bloom Energy albatross and supported renewable energy policies that are driving up power prices without commensurate environmental benefits, were apparently interviewed for this story.
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5/1/14, A12, “Good neighbors” don’t duck duties – This editorial lauds the Supreme Court decision upholding new EPA rules re emissions across state lines from upwind states (being classed as a downwind state, DE is not adversely affected).  Justice Scalia’s observation in dissent that Americans are learning from cases like this that “they are governed not as much by their elected representatives as by an unelected bureaucracy under vague statutory standards” is dismissed on grounds that “Congress – the elected representatives – directed the EPA to make these rules.  He also neglects to explain the harm the upwind polluters are doing to the downwind states. *** Controlling pollution is now a cost of doing business.  It is time everyone recognizes that.” The assumption that any standard promulgated by the EPA is ipso facto reasonable seems rather naïve.  What will the News Journal say when all the coal power plants are closed down and the interstate grid crashes due to a deficit of reliable power sources? 
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5/1/14, A13, Obamacare will fail because it was never honest, Kevin Wade – The progressives are riding high now, buoyed by reports of high enrollment in new healthcare policies that meet the new law’s standards.  Little do they realize that the unpopularity of this law will not fade, because it’s poorly designed and “many subscribers are grudging participants” who will “expect high-quality healthcare in return for their premiums” and get mad when they don’t get it.  Bottom line, “Americans accept being led but not being herded.”  These are noble sentiments, but we are not so sure how this little adventure will turn out – nor that the upshot will be “an American era rebuilt by the consent of the people and the honest leadership a free people deserve.”  Compare the predictions of Dr. Christopher Casscells of CRI, as previously reported in the SAFE newsletter, Spring 2014. http://bit.ly/1rUt6Pk
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4/30/14, A1/A12, Newark board upholds vote on gas-fired plant; Project opponents say appeal of zoning approval is likely, Melissa Nann Burke – Zoning decision in favor of the planned TDC project (a data center, in case anyone has forgotten, rather than a power plant) was upheld by the Board of Adjustment.  An appeal to Superior Court is apparently planned by opponents of the project, notably Jennifer Wallace (a leader of Newark Residents Against the Power Plant) and Sherry Hoffman (formerly in the AG’s office).  Meanwhile, shudder, TDC “can pursue its state air-quality permit – a process on hold until the zoning was final.”  There must have been a move for reconsideration, as the Board of Adjustment reportedly upheld the zoning decision some time ago.  Ruling upheld, 3/20/14.  The complaint discussed in this story is that the Newark authorities violated the state’s freedom of information requirements by (a) not holding the March meeting of the Board of Adjustment in a big enough building to accommodate all the people who allegedly wanted to attend, and (b) admitting people in a manner that was supposedly prejudicial to opponents of the project, wherefore the meeting was “void.”  John Paradee, counsel for the board, has stated in a public letter that no one played “favorites” in deciding who to admit and that no members of the public who wanted to attend were excluded (the meeting was attended by 700 people).  However, Newark Residents Against the Power Plant is reportedly “securing affidavits from the individuals denied entry” and the AG’s office has yet to rule on the matter.  You can’t make this stuff up!
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4/30/14, A12, Newark asks data center to provide pipeline routes, Melissa Nann BurkeFollowing a Monday evening hearing not previously reported on by the News Journal, Newark City Council “voted 5-2 early Tuesday morning to request that [TDC] update information in its application for a $7.5 million infrastructure grant [including] the intended [gas] pipeline routes.” The issue under discussion at the council meeting was whether City Manager Carol Houck exceeded her authority by supplying supportive letters (over a year ago) re the TDC project in connection with the application for the infrastructure grant.  Council member Mark Morehead argued in the affirmative, but other members reportedly didn’t want to go there, “citing concerns about exposing the city to liability and a costly legal settlement.” Council member Rob Gifford offered the motion re asking for the gas pipeline information.  He is quoted that “it would make sense to have that document updated, [and] then we as a council can decide based on that new information.” TDC representative Ken Grant noted that TDC isn’t involved in determining “the actual location” of the gas pipeline, although “we’ll provide all the information we can.” Council member Stu Markham, who along with Todd Ruckle voted against the motion, countered that “the city is waiting on lots of information, including analyses of the project by the city’s environmental consultant.” It’s hard to see the council’s request as anything other than a delaying tactic.  The members don’t want to be blamed for killing the project, but they also do not want to take any heat for supporting it.  And in the latter regard, the meeting was attended by about 100 project opponents, with very few supporters.  One speaker after another (anyone who wished to speak was allowed 3 minutes) blasted the project, berating council, claiming their health and their children's health would be ruined by the power plant emissions (one woman said 160 people would die over the life of the project, apparently based on the work of a UD professor), property values would drop, TDC made mistakes or lied on their application, too much electricity would be generated just to make money, the project wouldn’t create many jobs and most of them would be for software programmers someplace else, so think of the legacy we are leaving our children and not the money.  Anti-project statements were enthusiastically applauded, while our source (a professional engineer) heard someone say “disgusting” after he made the first (and perhaps only) pro-project statement of the evening.  Labor groups are supportive of the TDC project, but apparently weren’t present at the meeting.
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4/29/14, A1/A4, Lawmakers want more consideration of charters’ impact, Matthew Albright – More about a familiar theme: “New charters revive fears,” 4/5/14.  While claiming not to be “anti-charter,” state legislators like Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) are pushing for legislation that would permit charter school applications to be rejected based solely on their effect on existing public schools.  Under the legislation passed last year, state officials are reportedly allowed “to consider the impact on existing schools when approving new charters, but explicitly [prevented] from rejecting [a charter school application] based solely on that impact.”  By way of example, Sen. Townsend posed a hypothetical question: “We just approved a [science, technology, engineering and math] high school in Wilmington.  But what if a school nearby had just invested tens of thousand of taxpayer dollars into a STEM program?  We need to be asking ourselves, is this an effective coordination of resources?” Chuck Taylor, president of the Delaware Charter School Network, counters that the goal seems to be shifting power from parents to school officials.  “The argument you hear being made isn’t about what’s good for the kids, it’s what’s good for those districts.  It’s about politics.” In a similar vein, see  “The misdirected fear and loathing of charter schools,” Jim Hosley, Caesar Rodney Institute, April 2014. http://bit.ly/1mW5giW
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4/24/14, A1/A4, Data Center controversy: Newark may pull support for grant, Melissa Nann Burke – Opponents of the TDC project are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to delay and ultimately kill it.  The latest gambit is to schedule a debate at the next Newark City Council meeting (next Monday) on whether the City does or does not stand behind two letters of support sent over a year ago by City Manager Carol Houck – with copies to Council members.  “To commit the city without having discussed it with council is not an informed decision,” blusters Council member Mark Morehead, “when you’re talking about locating a major power plant between the neighborhoods, that would be a policy decision.”  However, as Houck explained in an April 14 letter to Newark residents who had complained about the matter, the letters did not commit the City to anything but merely certified that there was a public benefit that would be served for purposes of TDC’s grant application.  The Delaware Infrastructure Committee gave conditional approval to a modest-sized (by Bloom Energy or Fisker standards) grant last April.  No funds have been released, nor will they be until TDC finalizes funding for the $1 billion project and meets other requirements according to the Delaware Office of Economic Development.  Because the grant has been held up by other delays, TDC plans to request an extension – after seeing what happens at Monday’s council meeting.  If Newark is determined to reject this attractive project, they may wind up doing so, but there is at least a suggestion that other areas might feel differently.  State Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South) is quoted: “If Newark chooses to withdraw their support, I’d love to set up a meeting with TDC and the mayor of Wilmington to see if we can’t entice them to build this project in Wilmington.” The lack of vision and leadership in the Newark area is stunning.  Residents should wake up and demand better!
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4/22/14, A1/A4, Denn sets sights on attorney general race, Jonathan Starkey – In the wake of Beau Biden’s announcement that he will not seek reelection as Attorney General this year, two Democratic Party candidates quickly emerged.  Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, has no prosecutorial experience but says that doesn’t matter since the AG is basically an administrative position.  State Prosecutor Kathleen Jennings, one of Biden’s top lieutenants, is also considering a run.  No word as to GOP candidates.
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4/22/14 Former Justice Stevens wants to change the Constitution; He’s focused on six issues that he says were wrongly decided, Richard Wolf (USA Today) – The ideas are set out in a book by Stevens: Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. http://amzn.to/1iHcCWK 1. Rewrite 2nd Amendment to “make clear that only a state’s militia has a constitutional right to bear arms.”  2. Rewrite 8th Amendment to ban death penalty.  3. Rewrite 1st Amendment to exclude from free speech protection any “reasonable limits” on campaign spending enacted by Congress or the states. 4. Require that congressional and state legislative districts be “compact and composed of contiguous territory” so as to prevent gerrymandering. 5. Provide that states can’t claim sovereign immunity for violating the Constitution or an act of Congress. 6. Empower Congress to require states  to perform federal duties in emergencies. We can think of other issues that might be deemed more important, notably what to do when the Executive Branch violates the Constitution and/or neglects to perform federal duties such as enforcing the nation’s immigration laws; term limits; and a balanced budget amendment,.  Compare the Liberty Amendments by Mark Levin, http://bit.ly/1ecNWUf, which to our knowledge was not reviewed in the News Journal.
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4/20/14, A1/A7, Carper pushes for federal gas tax hike, Nicole Gaudiano – First it was Delaware Governor Jack Markell calling for a 10¢ a gallon increase in the DE tax on gasoline, now Senator Tom Carper wants a similar hike at the federal level. And about time, since “neither the federal nor the state tax has been increased in two decades.”  The suggested approach would be to raise the 18.4 cent federal gas tax three or four cents a year for up to four years, [and then] link [further] increases in the tax to increases in inflation.  “If we think it’s important to have roads that are in good shape, bridges that are not about to collapse . . . then it’s worth paying for.”  He’s hoping that the issue won’t be put off until after the fall elections, but acknowledges that may be the net result.  And he recalls joining with former Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) in a letter to the Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission proposing a gas tax increase in 2010.  Well, give Senator Carper credit for consistency.  But what is he offering to make up for the gas tax increase, e.g., prompt approval of the Keystone pipeline or a rollback of ever higher mileage requirements that represent, in effect, a tax on motorists?

4/19/14, A6, Wanted: A brave new approach to reality – This editorial correctly identifies some of the reasons that the “current system for financing highways and bridges is not working.”  Notably, “both here in Delaware and across the nation, our elected officials . . . diverted too much highway money to other purposes *** [and] Congress mandated better mileage per gallon from newer cars [rather than leaving this issue to be decided by the marketplace], [which] translates into fewer tax dollars from gasoline sold.”  Currently, there is limited political appetite for a gas tax increase, “even if that would make sense,” so “Congress has spent more than $53 billion in general funds since 2009 to repair highways.”  Yet withal, the Congressional Budget Office warns that the federal transportation fund could go broke by July.  And there’s a similar problem in Delaware, yet everyone wants better roads and highway, so what in the world is to be done?  “We obviously need a long-range national solution,” and “there are ideas out there” like creating an infrastructure bank [off balance sheet financing?], reaping “peace dividends” from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan [instead of reducing deficits], closing corporate tax loopholes [dooming the cause of real tax reform to boost the economy], and “even changing the organization and mission of the Highway Trust Fund [what does that mean?].  Some these ideas “have merit” yet “no one is exploring them.”  Accordingly, “Delawareans should tell their congressional delegation – Sens. Carper and Coons and Rep. Carney – that now is the time for a thorough, reasonable solution to a common problem.”  No one really wants “a brave approach to reality,” what people want is something that doesn’t exist – painless solutions [aka as a “free lunch”].  Furthermore, letters telling the Delaware members to “do the right thing” would basically be useless.
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4/18/14, A9, Bloom competitor to continue its case; US District Court magistrate makes ruling on Tuesday, Aaron Nathans – After well over a year, the judge in the Cause of Action (COA) funded suit against the Bloom Energy regime issued a 65-page opinion on a challenge to standing of the two named plaintiffs.  FuelCell Energy’s challenge on a claim of discrimination against interstate commerce (dormant Commerce Clause argument) is on. John Nichols’s challenge on grounds that the Delmarva Power surcharge saddles half of Delawareans with the tab for a venture that supposedly benefits the entire population (thereby denying the payers of “Equal Protection of the Law”) was dismissed with prejudice.   Charles Elson, UD Center for Corporate Governance is quoted that “because it wasn’t dismissed entirely, [the case] proceeds” and “all bets are off.”  Time will tell what COA chooses to do, e.g., will they litigate the dormant Commerce Clause argument (which in our judgment is the weaker of the two claims) only or appeal the dismissal of the Equal Protection argument (in which case defendants would presumably appeal the ruling that FuelCell Energy has standing)?  Whether or not the Equal Protection claim should prevail, the conclusion that a ratepayer has no legal standing to raise it because the legislature might have had some arguably rational purpose for enacting the Bloom Energy legislation carries “due deference” too far.  One might as well say a plaintiff must prove his or her case before being allowed to file a complaint. 
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4/17/14, State approves four charters, rejects one; Two other charters placed under scrutiny; Moyer change approved, Matthew Albright – As reported earlier (1/29/14), five new charter school applications were filed this year.  Now, after a number of state legislators expressed concern about the number of applications (4/5/14), the Department of Education has approved 4 of the 5 applications.  The Pike Creek Charter School application was rejected on grounds that it was “not on solid financial footing.” There are currently 11,078 students in charter schools statewide, a number that was “expected to grow” even before approval of the new schools, but two existing schools (Academia Antonia Alonso and Delaware MET) were placed on probation due to major shortfalls in their planned enrollment.  Also, New Moyer Academy was allowed to shrink its enrollment targets by about half for the next school year.  At the Board of Education meeting, there was heated discussion about the perceived inability to evaluate charter schools based on intrinsic merit rather than “whether they filled a form right” in compliance with the state guidelines.  Hmm, dire warnings about the public schools being put out of business may be a bit premature.  But it does seem that the merit of charter school applications can and should be appropriately factored into the equation.

4/17/14, A1/A9, Campus panel voices concerns; Emissions at odds with pledge, Melissa Nann Burke – “Bringing a gas-fired power plant to the University of Delaware would nullify university pledges to reduce its carbon footprint, according to a campus task force on environmental concerns.” The executive council of UD’s Sustainability Task Force “this month sent an open letter” to UD president Patrick Harper asking him to “more rigorously consider” the stated commitment to sustainability. Thus the council reportedly “has difficulty seeing how the facility – projected to emit up to 900,000 tons of carbon [CO2?] a year – is compatible with values the university has touted through various green initiatives, including its own Climate Action Plan.”  UD leaders were also faulted for not effectively informing or engaging the community in dialog.  Nine of the council’s 10 members signed the statement.  Anne-Marie Crossan, associate director of facilities and operations for UD “made a personal choice to not sign the letter,” but apparently did not dissent.  Harker thanked the group for its comments and asked the members to meet with a UD working group that is evaluating the project.  The working group’s report isn’t expected for two or three months.  Newark City Councilman Stu Markham is quoted as calling for UD to set a publication date for the report and clarify what questions the working group is supposed to address.  “Are they addressing questions that  I’m getting from residents?  Like, why the size?  And why not use Bloom boxes?”  Speaking on behalf of TDC, Ken Grant expressed continuing commitment to the project and noted that generating power on site is cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable than buying power from the grid, which includes power generated from coal.  Different power plant, Data Center views, A12, Bruce Pinkerton, Arbour Park – This letter reprises the previous News Journal story on how Rowan University in NJ turned down a similar TDC project, which raises the question of “how come the city of Newark and the University of Delaware are less discerning?”  It goes on to suggest that the current project bears no logical connection to UD’s “master plan . . . for the development of the old Chrysler property – which by the way is still posted on the Web.”  Should TDC’s data center/ power plant be judged on economic merit or “feel good” ideology?  And why isn’t anyone coming to TDC ‘s defense, when everyone is supposedly concerned that “good jobs” are drying up in Delaware.  See the extensive coverage of this issue in the 12/8/13 News Journal, and the meager results (a call for enhanced workforce training) of the ensuing Imagine Delaware forum that were reported on 12/13/13.
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4/14/14,_ A11, Let’s make Newark’s Data Center debate more civil, Jim Black, Partnership for Sustainability in Delaware (website under construction, http://psdel.org/index.html) -This column usefully points out some of the hype that TDC project opponents have indulged in, such as slamming “gross emissions” without acknowledging that higher emissions would result from relying on power from the grid (assuming that would be economic anyway, which it wouldn’t) or claiming that property values would be adversely affected when the opposite is probably true.  Also, we’re all for civility.  But the contention that “[all concerned] want the same things” and should “start from this point of agreement and work back toward how best to accomplish this” rings false.  Moreover, it’s not clear what the writer means by “sustainable communities” (some explanations published elsewhere are downright frightening, see, e.g., “It takes a global sustainability movement,   9/25/12) and if he thinks TDC’s project could “be made better” then it would be appropriate to explain his idea rather than being coy about it.
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4/13/14, A1/A18, UD touts data center rejected by Rowan; New Jersey sought more information on financing, had environmental concerns, Melissa Nann Burke – A data center similar to the facility now proposed for the UD Star Campus in Newark was previously pitched to Rowan University in Glasboro, NJ for their South Jersey Technology Park.  Sixteen months after Rowan said “no,” the University of Delaware said “yes.”  Well, maybe this isn’t exactly right, because the “no” may have been qualified (TDC CEO Gene Kern says his company walked away from the project after Rowan proposed an 18-month delay for further review) and UD President Patrick Harker says the project is still being assessed.  Among other things, consideration will reportedly be given to environmental data, community impacts, and, in particular, whether the power plant is appropriately sized. “They’ll issue a report, and we’ll be able to collectively make a decision. Until that happens, I don’t know what it is.  All right?  We don’t quite know what it is.” Harker is also quoted that “whatever goes on at that site has to have some tie to faculty research and/or student internships, or we’re ultimately not that interested in it.”  UD did sign a lease with TDC in December 2012, however, for a 43-acre site at the Star Campus (formerly Chrysler Auto Plant). Rather than attempting to study this project to death, Delawareans should be putting out the welcome mat.
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4/13/14, A28, McCarthy updated in form of Issa, Dana Milbank (Washington Post) – The writer slams Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Oversight Committee, claiming that “during his miserable tenure” the operations of the committee have been “reckless, dishonest, vain and prone to unsubstantiated accusations.”  Fortunately, however, Issa is no Joseph McCarthy because people don’t fear him as they used to fear McCarthy.  “There may be some who fear Issa, Ted Cruz or other practitioners of neo-McCarthyism,” but many others (the Democrat members of the House Oversight Committee among them) are “unafraid to call these men dangerous, or buffoons.”  The only specifics cited for this attack are that Issa said IRS targeting of conservative groups was “coordinated in all likelihood out of Washington headquarters [IRS National Office] – and we’re getting to proving it,” yet has ended up with no one in his sights except Lois Lerner.  Poor Ms. Lerner may now be cited for contempt for refusing to answer questions after taking the 5th.  Lerner is not a “career employee” of the IRS as Milbank characterizes her. (She formerly worked at the Federal Election Commission, where she also had a track record of targeting conservative groups. http://tinyurl.com/qdmnfch) The claim that Lerner waived her 5th Amendment privilege by making a whole series of self-serving statements carries some weight. And there is ample evidence on the record to demolish claims that rogue employees of the Cincinnati office engaged in targeting conservative groups on their own initiative. We are inclined to agree with Charles Krauthammer, however, that Issa et al. would have been smart to grant Lerner immunity. It’s far more important how high up the food chain the IRS targeting goes than whether Lerner gets criminally prosecuted.  
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4/13/14, A29, “Flash Boys” should – and will – make your blood boil, Ted Kaufman – This new novel by Michael Lewis, also the author of “Liars Poker” and “The Big Short,” has a provocative premise:  “A small group of Wall Street guys . . . figure out that the US stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post-financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks.”  All of which strikes a responsive chord with Kaufman, who by his own admission has “been railing about [High Frequency Trading] since 2009, when I made a series of speeches on the Senate floor.”  In explaining what he thinks is bad about HFT, the writer conflates two situations. (A) The so-called flash crash of the market in May 2010 when the US market dropped 481 points in six minutes and then gained 502 points in just 10 minutes. (B) The potential for “front running,” which would be virtually undetectable with HFT, if say a broker gets a “huge order” to buy a stock and realizes the price is bound to go up – so he slips in an order for himself first.  Situation A is presumably a technical problem, which should be addressed by evaluating and shoring up the computer systems in use.  Situation B is an ethical problem, which might warrant more regulatory oversight by the SEC but can’t easily be addressed when stock trades are being processed in fractions of a second.  Kaufman has been pushing for further study by the SEC for years, and now hopes that “Flash Crash” will fuel more concern about the issue. We don’t share Kaufman’s faith that the results of more government regulation are invariably beneficial, nor do we believe the stock market is “rigged.”  Remember that HFT has contributed to greatly reducing the brokerage commissions on stock trades, which is a good thing, and that if you place a stock order you can put a limit on it so that the “masters of Wall Street” won’t be able to cheat you. 
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4/13/14, E1/E5, Bloom Energy quietly wins subsidies in NY; The success of Newark fuel-cell server maker ties to East Coast projects, Aaron Nathans – The premise of the heavily subsidized Bloom Energy investment in Delaware was that most of the fuel cells would be sold outside the First State – beggaring other states while benefitting us.  Success is basically contingent on two things: (a) other jurisdictions providing subsidies for fuel cell installations, and (b) relatively high electric power costs that make the cost of fuel cell power look more competitive.  Various out-of-state successes have been reported, most recently “regulatory approval in New York state for what is expected to be millions in subsidies to install and run its servers for AT&T and the grocery chain Stop and Shop.”  In addition to state subsidies, according to this article, “the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit on the power produced” from fuel cells.  Bryan Warshay of Bloomberg New Energy Finance is quoted that “betting on politics is quite risky,” so Bloom would do well to seek out “markets with high retail electricity prices” and/or “sectors like data centers that have high reliability needs.”  DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara reportedly believes that “Delaware’s task force on renewable energy needs to look at what sort of incentives might be available to potential clients of bloom to install more Bloom boxes in Delaware.”  Not likely, Delawareans are gagging on the subsidies handed out to date. 
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4/13/14, B1, Climate report: It’s now or never; UN panel calls for urgent transition to clean energy, Wendy Koch (USA Today) – According to “a landmark report” by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, manmade carbon emissions “grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in any of the three previous decades,” and this trend must be stopped. Specifically, the IPCC wants carbon emissions slashed 40% to 70% by midcentury and almost entirely eliminated by 2100 so as to keep global temperatures from spiraling out of control.  And “even these emission cuts might not be enough,” so it might be necessary to “enlist controversial technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”  According to co-author Leon Clarke of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, “it’s not necessarily a phaseout of fossil fuels,” but rather “a phaseout of power plants and other facilities that don’t capture the carbon [dioxide] they emit.” Costs? Proof?  Compare this report from CNS News: http://bit.ly/1kM1xqy
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4/12/14, A7, Report: Wilmington among top solar cities: City comes in at no. 3 in nation in sun power per capita, Aaron Nathans -  Another big renewable energy story, about ½ the page including picture (Colin O’Mara speaking at an outdoor press conference, in vicinity of a solar power array at Deltech Wilmington campus, with half a dozen other people present).  According to a new report released by the Environment America Research & Policy Center, Wilmington is a solar power leader – no. 3 [city] nationally per capita – with 14-fold growth (500 KW to 7 MW) from end of 2001 to end of 2013.  About 200 solar energy systems have been installed on Wilmington businesses, schools, homes and government buildings, according to DNREC.  And in compliance with the RPS, 3.5% of Delaware electric power must come from solar power by 2025. Supportive comments reported from: Governor Jack Markell – “Encouraging [mandating?] solar power is the right thing to do for the environment and the economy *** we can have both a strong economy and a healthy environment.”  DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara – Wilmington’s high ranking is “a great sign of the effectiveness of many of the policies and investments that have been made over the years.”  And as a bonus, Deltech solar projects have been popular for training installers.   Dale Davis, Delaware Solar Energy Coalition – “The policies [mandates & subsidies] that Delaware has put in place to adopt solar have allowed Delaware to be a leader in the amount of solar that we have. We’re a small state, but we’re having a big impact, and we’re doing it cheaper [due to larger subsidies?] than any of the surrounding states.” Sorry, but these subsidized investments are driving up energy costs, and that is not good for business.
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4/12/14, A9, Let parents use tax credits to pick schools, Stacie Beck & Eleanor Craig – This column argues that parents should have a choice where their children go to school, which encourages public schools to improve as well as providing alternatives that some students will benefit from.  The mechanism suggested is “tax credit scholarship programs,” which are said to be “used in 13 states with more than 150,000 students participating.”  By the way, only 53% of the funds for public schools go for teaching-related activities – private and parochial schools have much lower overhead.  These tax credits could be used for all kinds of things including “tuition, online studies, remedial tutoring, college savings,” or “even home school course materials if your child needs these.”  And “Delaware could pass a scholarship tax credit program for individuals and businesses without legal difficulty since these are not state funds.” Although school choice is great in principle, this approach sounds more complicated than a voucher program and could turn into quite a boondoggle.  We would be more inclined to favor vouchers, with the funds going to schools versus to parents.
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4/11/14, A10, Consensus emerges on bill transparency; Parties meet on Thursday to discuss Delmarva bills, Aaron Nathans – Including pictures, this story takes up about half a page.  There is a big picture of a man sitting at a table with an array of papers spread out in front of him and a small computer or calculator. (Doug Haring of Newark is concerned the energy isn’t clean enough for what he’s paying.) There are headshots of two of the participants at the PSC meeting, Public Advocate David Bonar & Rep. John Kowalko.  Apparently, the account of what happened is based on reports from Bonar, Kowalko and others rather than first hand observation.  The upshot: Starting this summer, Delmarva will add “a line item on bills that will list the Low Income Fund charge, the Green Energy Fund charge, and Renewable Compliance Charges” (the RCCs being a total of “wind, solar and fuel cell charges, all lumped together”).  Then, “sometime in 2015 when Delmarva goes live with its new billing system . . . “wind, solar and fuel cell charges are expected to be detailed.”  Bonar reportedly described this as a “kumbaya-type meeting” with participants (including Delmarva Power, PSC staff, his office and private citizens) largely on the same page.  Kowalko also expressed satisfaction: “The people who are constantly saying, why are we burdened with this cost, that cost, deserve the right to know what charges are being made, and on what basis.”  Haring expressed satisfaction that “at least we’ll know what we’re paying for, and then we can possibly do something about it.”  Having attended the meeting, our impressions are a bit different.  FIRST, the prime objective of the proceeding was to get the Bloom Energy surcharge broken out on customer bills – which apparently isn’t going to happen until well after the elections.  Customers may choose to assume that most of the “Renewable Compliance Charges” are due to the Bloom Energy tariff, but they won’t know for sure.  SECOND, there was no firm commitment about breaking out wind, solar and Bloom Energy separately after the new billing system goes on line around 4/1/15.  Also, there was no explanation of why it wouldn’t be more economical to decide now how the charges are going to be detailed and build this feature into the new billing system versus changing the system later.  THIRD, there is an unresolved issue (raised by Dave Stevenson of CRI) that a major part of “renewable compliance charges” is not being captured at all, namely added power costs due to participation in the Regional Green Gas Initiative (RGGI).  Although Todd Goodman of Delmarva Power claimed that breaking out this cost would be very difficult, Stevenson said Atlantic City Electric is already doing so in NJ.  Goodman agreed to look into this. FOURTH, it remains unclear why the various add-on charges should appear in “electric delivery charges” versus “electric power” costs where they properly belong.  FIFTH, DNREC has not dropped its point that if costs are going to be broken out then purported environmental benefits should also be reported, although none of the other participants expressed support.  PERHAPS the outcome (assuming PSC approval, probably at its 4/29 meeting) is the best one could have expected given the conflicting viewpoints and objectives, but it wasn’t really a “kumbaya-type” meeting.
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4/10/14, A1/A7, State urged to press on to hit Race to Top goals, Matthew Albright – US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in town, the focus being status of Delaware’s “Race to the Top” programs that were singled out for special federal funding.   The thrust of the article, quoting liberally from Secretary Duncan and Governor Markell, is that things are going well.  Some programs have worked better than others, but what would one expect when trying to turn around as big a system as the Delaware public schools?  Notably, high school freshmen rate of falling behind is down, high school dropout rate hit a 30-year low last year, and “every student whose test scores show they can succeed in college has applied.” (emphasis added)  Among concerns that were mentioned: what will happen when all the special funding has been received and spent?  “If the progress stops when the money runs out,” says Secretary Duncan, “we will have failed, frankly.” SAFE believes the federal government should stop attempting to influence public education; it’s a state and local responsibility. http://bit.ly/1fyXlSe
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4/10/14, A1/A6, Chamber gives terms for gas tax support, Jonathan Starkey – A Delaware State Chamber of Commerce letter to the governor endorsed his proposed 10¢ per gallon hike in the gas tax – sort of.  The Chamber views tax increases as a “last resort,” and their letter suggests the governor should first cut state spending, improve management of the government payroll and dedicate one-time unclaimed property revenues to funding infrastructure improvements versus operating expenses.  Also faulted was the practice of employing out of state contractors to conduct aggressive audits in search of unclaimed property revenue.  Last year, “state lawmakers used $566 million in revenue from uncashed corporate paychecks and other unclaimed property” to balance the budget. It’s unclear that enough political support for the gas tax increase will materialize in this election year, at least for the full 10¢ per gallon.
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4/9/14. A10, Why do parents pick charter schools? – Re “New charters revive fears,” 4/5/14, this editorial suggests that public educators should engage in some introspection as to why charter schools seem to be popular rather than simply worrying about the competition they offer.  Think about the private sector, where “when the customers stop coming back, the business operators find out why and do something about it” rather than blaming the competition.  “Shouldn’t the legislators be trying to assist the school administration to find a solution for the problem, rather than complaining about alleged unfairness?”  Good point.
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4/7/14, A1/A9, Extreme Rain Events on rise, Molly Murray – Annual snowfall goes up and down, ditto temperature data, but “extreme rainfall” is supposedly on the march.  The implication that this is due to “climate change” is not expressed, but DNREC Colin O’Mara is quoted that “all the climate models predict more frequent, higher volume storm events.”  Accompanying pictures: Cars overcome with water on highways, crowd walking with umbrellas in Rehoboth Beach, etc.  A listing of “Delaware’s big rains since 1999.  Is this journalism or propaganda?
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4/7/14, A10, Same-day voting a good idea – on paper – This editorial acknowledges several arguments against the pending bill: (a) polling officials could be overwhelmed by influx of unregistered voters on election days, so “deadlining voting registration to at least a day or two before Election Day should be helpful,” although less important for the primaries (due to lower turnout); (b) “apprehensions about voter fraud are real and can be addressed with stringent but reasonable [not defined] identification requirements and verification that support existing election laws,” (c) voters who wait until the last minute “may not be very well-informed about the candidates they are choosing.”  However, it seems to be accepted that the goal should be to “[gain] the participation of as many Delawareans as possible when it comes to selecting leaders of state, local and federal government.” Quite enough “low information” voters are turning out already (and probably some who are not legally eligible); why make the ground rules even less restrictive? 
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4/6/14, A25/26, “Good government starts with good people,” Ted Kaufman – Prominently displayed column (starting with title in large type on first page of “Dialogue Delaware” section) touts a just released report by Booz Allen Hamilton on “A New Civil Service Framework.” Kaufman was a panelist at the event introducing the report.  The gist is that government employees are increasingly holding down “professional and administrative positions” rather than filling “clerical” jobs, while the civil service rules have not changed in decades.  Top management layer is nearing retirement, will be leaving soon, and this could create a leadership vacuum unless the system is overhauled to aid in “attracting, hiring and retaining [the] highly skilled and educated employees needed to respond to today’s domestic and global challenges.” Indeed, “it is not an exaggeration to say that our society is so heavily dependent on [these people] for a range of basic services that it would collapse if they were not there.”  Time is running out, because “only 9 percent of the federal workforce is made up of people younger than 30 – compared to 23 percent of the total US workforce.”  But thus far, “perhaps intimidated by the ‘all government is bad and useless’ extremists who have become louder in recent years, Congress has done nothing to address the problem.” Curious that these comments would be offered without any hint as to what the report recommends beyond a suggestion that people might want to read it. (http://bit.ly/Pg9ruc, download PDF) Based on a quick scan, the gist seems to be more career employees at the helm vs. political appointees, more emphasis on developmental transfers between different sectors of the “government enterprise,” and – you guessed it – higher pay for the top echelon.
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4/6/14, A27, Privilege of voting should not be taken lightly, James Atkins (“the 9-12 Delaware Patriots lobbyist”) – Re “Dover legislators who claim there is no voter fraud, especially in Delaware, I can only guess that Delaware is blessed as rash of recent news articles report differently.”  Widespread voter fraud reported in North Carolina – 94 illegal voters caught in Florida, likely the tip of the iceberg – “True the vote” found more than 348K dead people on rolls in 27 states – Minnesota leads nation in voter fraud convictions – Chicago traditionally known as city of the “voting dead.” And the same-day voter bill making its way through the legislature “will provide increased opportunities for voter fraud and election manipulation” in the absence of “an ironclad means of voter identification” to ensure “that only authorized individuals vote, and vote only once, not travel from polling station to polling station.”  Amen.
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4/5/14, A1/A10, New charters revive fears; NCCo legislators band together to express “deep concerns” about new schools; impact on traditional districts and communities, Matthew AlbrightBy the numbers: 4 charter schools seeking to open in the fall of 2015 in NCC, Red Clay School District would lose a total of 800 students and up to $2.6M in annual state aid; potentially a total of 31 charter schools by 2016.  Letter to Dept. of Education: Signed by 3 state senators and 17 state representatives, it expresses “deep concern about [the] effects on the Red Clay School District, the other school districts of New Castle County and the community at large.” As a rule of thumb, the letter suggests that charter schools approved by the state should “provide our students with a wholly unique and high-quality education.”  Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network, is quoted as follows:  “Our mission is to promote autonomy and choice in public education as a whole.  Growth in itself is not the goal of the charter movement, nor is it to adversely affect district schools.”  A decision on the pending applications is expected at the April 17 board meeting.  For background, see “Expect a bigger charter footprint; Public schools are OK with the competition,1/29/14.
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4/5/14, A6. GOP’s unproven voter fraud charge, William Stoedter (Milton) – Further to questions about voter fraud, the writer takes issue with a recent column by Susan Stamper Brown claiming that voter fraud in the US is “nearly nonexistent” according to “all of the studies I have seen.”  Take Brown’s point that 2.75 million people are licensed to vote in more than one state, but who in their right mind would “vote early in their home state” and then “drive many hours to their previous state to case a single ballot”?  Suppose X calls Y in the previous state and encourages Y to show up and use the registration that is going to waste, which should be pretty easy, especially if photo ID is not required.  Or X secures an absentee ballot for one of the states. Or a crooked poll worker generates votes for all unused registrations.  For further discussion, see The Liberty Amendments (chapter on voting fraud), Mark Levin, 2014. http://bit.ly/1ecNWUf 
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4/4/14, A4, House passes same-day voter registration, Jon Offredo – This legislation (sponsored by John Viola, D-Newark) would permit an unregistered voter to show up at the polls on election day and vote vs. being required to register by the fourth Saturday prior to the date of the election. The purported benefits are that the change “reduces the need for provisional ballots, boosts voter registration, increases turnout among minorities and young voters and is particularly effective during primary elections when a majority of Delaware’s elections are decided.”  GOP opponents “raised concern that same-day registration could lead to voter fraud and place an additional burden on poll workers.”  Also, according to Rep. Joe Miro (R-Pike Creek Valley), voters who wait until the very last minute may not be well informed about the candidates they are choosing.  Viola countered the fraud reference as follows: “Show me documentation where there has been fraud” in states where same-day voting is allowed, he said, adding that no evidence existed to support this concern. The governor’s office stated that this legislation will “[involve] more people in the political process in a responsible way and we should take that opportunity.”  The political motivation for the bill is obvious, and we think its passage will contribute to erosion of confidence in the voting system.  But there is no way the Republicans can stop the bill from sailing through the Senate and being signed into law.
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4/3/14, Civic activist John Nichols appears on Rick Jensen Show (1150 AM)(A) Asked about PSC Chairman Dallas Winslow’s letter (next story), Nichols explained that the current cost of the Bloom tariff is indeed running in the $5-$6 range. Although Delmarva’s quota of renewable energy credits (RECs) and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) is commensurately reduced, this simply shifts money from other subsidized firms to Bloom Energy with no savings for ratepayers.   Had a combined cycle natural gas plant been installed, which was the next logical increment of production for Delaware, it would be generating power at about 1/3 the cost of the Bloom Energy fuel cell clusters – as was plainly disclosed in the consultants’ reports available to the PSC.  (B) Nichols is following up with several legislators re the manner in which the creation of hazardous waste (SO2 - laced resin beds, or as Bloom calls them sulfur tanks) in the Coastal Zone was glossed over in the CZ permit proceeding.  It is presently unclear how the tanks are being removed and disposed of, but this is known to be happening.  So, said Rick Jensen, who was beginning to sum up, we’re told the process is green and safe, and it’s neither?  Correct.  (C) And Bloom has hired over 100 employees?  Not so much, most of the employees are not full time and the contract employees are typically moving on after 2-3 months.  (D) Is Bloom making money?  For all the subsidies and tax credits, Nichols believes the answer is “no”.  This last point was cut off as the scheduled time ran out.
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4/3/14, A10_2, Net customer costs of Bloom Energy deal, Dallas Winslow, PSC Chairman – The writer claims the Bloom Energy tariff, as approved by the PSC, is costing ratepayers about what was expected on a net basis, i.e., about $1.30 per month for the typical residential customer versus 3 or 4 times more as the News Journal has reported.  Supposedly, “the recent story [there have been several stories] ignores the renewable energy savings” of “generating low-emission, reliable energy credit savings right here in Delaware as well as the renewable energy credit savings provided by the same cleaner, low-emission generation.”  Plus which the creation of more than 100 jobs at Bloom Energy should not be overlooked. The PSC is not responsible for the Bloom Energy fiasco, the Markell administration and the legislature set it up.  But Delaware power would be a lot cheaper without Bloom Energy and the other renewable energy costs that have built into the rate base, all for basically zero environmental benefits. 
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4/3/14, A10, Is buying political inflence corrupt?  - This editorial is prompted by the Supreme Court decision (5-4) striking down aggregate limits per donor on aggregate contributions to federal political candidates on grounds that said limits are not necessary to prevent corruption and interfere with freedom of speech and association under the First Amendment. And guess what, the rich donors in question are not donating out of the goodness of their hearts, they are buying access, face time, having phone calls returned. So “the country is left with a system that is barely working and likely will become even more dysfunctional” when, as “a number of observers predict,” limits on individual federal candidates are challenged as well.  Under this system, “corporations and unions can pour unlimited amounts of money into an election.  They can anonymously put money in campaign funds that promote an issue as long as it does not specifically endorse a candidate.  These vehicles can be destructive of our democracy and our election system.  If this is not a form of corruption, what is?  We agree the current campaign finance laws are a mess, but the problems are largely due to past reform efforts, e.g., the McCain-Feingold Act.  It would be better to eliminate the “political action committees” and other dodges that have grown up as a result of limits on direct donations to candidates, while permitting unlimited direct donations with full disclosure of the source of donations.  Thus, the current SCt decision appears to be a step in the right direction. 
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3/31/14, B1, No hiding from climate change; Every corner of globe affected, UN report says, Doyle Rice (USA Today) – “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability is the second in a series of four reports prepared by hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists through the IPCC.”  And according to this article, it makes a compelling case that the time for debate is over and it’s time for the world governments to act by forcing a reduction in “the emissions of the greenhouse gasses (such as carbon dioxide) that cause global warming.”  Compare Climate forecast: Muting the alarm, Matt Ridley (author of The Eternal Optimist, 2010, and a member of the British House of Lords), Wall Street Journal, 3/28/14, no link available.  According to Ridley, the new report is “less frightening” than the 2007 report it supersedes.  Yet it “still assumes 70% more warming by the last decades of this century than the best science now suggests.”  And he says the real debate in climate science is not between deniers and the rest, but rather between those that think warming is going on but not a big problem and those who find it alarming.  Scientists moving to the not a big problem end of the spectrum include Judith Curry of Georgia’s Institute of Technology and Richard Lindzen of MIT.  If renewable energy cost about the same as fossil fuels, do it to be safe, but it’s actually a lot more expensive.  Some efforts to curb warming might be likened to taking chemotherapy for a cold.  And by the way, there have been prior claims of great environmental dangers that turned out to be wildly exaggerated, such as the population bomb, pesticides, acid rain, the ozone hole, falling sperm counts, genetically engineered crops, and killer bees. 
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3/30/14, A17, It’s time to give Delaware and America a raise, President Barack Obama – “As Americans, we believe that honest work should be rewarded with honest wages . . . no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty . . . most workers who would get a raise [from raising minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour] aren’t teenagers taking on their first job . . . a majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women.”  The current minimum wage “is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office . . . the American people are way ahead of Washington on this issue . . . six states [have] passed laws to raise [their minimum wage] . . . profitable businesses like ShakeShack [and] Costco . . . pay higher wages . . . because it reduces employee turnover, boosts productivity, and improves the bottom line.”  By executive order, the president has required federal contractors to pay at least $10.10 per hour to their employees, “which will be good for America’s bottom line” and is “the right thing to do.”  In some manner that’s not explained, boosting the federal minimum wage would not simply raise the wages for people now earning the minimum wage, but “raise wages” for 28 million Americans (83,000 of them in Delaware) across our country.  So the effect would be to “lift millions out of poverty immediately and help millions more work their way out of poverty, without requiring any new taxes or spending.  It will give businesses more customers with more money to spend.  It will grow the economy for everyone.” Compare this article from the current SAFE newsletter. http://bit.ly/1i8XmiF
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3/29/14, A6, Start fixing health[care] law’s flaws now – “The Affordable Care Act is flawed,” concludes this editorial, “but it is providing more people with health[care] benefits. *** We should consider it a work in progress.  That means instead of the two parties yelling at each other, they should set about fixing those flaws,” lest disgruntled consumers “give up on the plan.”  In other words, with enough subsidies, which the government can ill afford, GovCare can be prevented from collapsing of its own weight.  Why can’t the government, with all its resources and savvy experts, come up with a better outcome than that?
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3/29/14, A5, Bloom surcharge will be lower in May; total charged to Delmarva customers lowest in 4 months, Aaron Nathans – May $5.26 for customer using 1,000 KWH vs. $5.98 in April.  Total charges $2.9M in May vs. $3.7M in April.  The explanation is warming weather, which is resulting in lower natural gas costs.  And Bryan Horsey, Bloom’s local spokesman, is quoted that there are “well over 100” employees at the plant and hiring continues.  Ho hum!

03/23/14, NJ supports raising federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour – Ostensibly, our local newspaper published both sides of the argument.  Side-by-side columns appear on page 29/32 with dueling titles.  Increasing minimum wage: not perfect, but useful step, UD economist Saul Hoffman, basically accords with views expressed in Professor Hoffman’s 2/20/14 column on the subject, e.g., “new research shows convincingly that a moderate increase in the minimum wage does not reduce employment opportunities for low-wage workers.”  Hoffman’s reason for viewing the minimum wage as imperfect, apparently, is that he would also liberalize the Earned Income Tax Credit and make it refundable on state tax returns.   He asserts without discussion that “the proposed $10.10 level” for a federal minimum wage “strikes an appropriate balance between the well-being of low-income working families and the financial stability of small businesses and other employers.” Raising the minimum wage one of Obama’s worst ideas, Ramesh Ponnuru, a well-known conservative commentator.   Idea is popular, but also bad.  On one hand, studies show that minimum wage increases do not reduce the poverty rate.  As for whether the proposed 39% increase would decrease employment opportunities, economists differ and there are studies to support either opinion, but “shouldn’t we err on the side of caution?”  Better to raise the EITC, if you’re going to do anything, but that’s not popular because then politicians would have to take responsibility for the cost rather than simply mandating that someone else pay it.  Time to raise the federal minimum wage, A30, editorial.  It is conceded for purposes of discussion that the CBO is right and the proposed increase in the minimum wage would reduce employment by 600K jobs, even while boosting the wages of 16.5 million people.  However, it is asserted: “American workers do need to make more.  Wages do need to go up.  And people looking for jobs should get them.”  Also, “the American economy needs a boost,” which could be accomplished by putting “more cash into the pockets of those at the lower end of the economic scale” who will quickly spend whatever they make.  For those who believe in free markets, it’s not up to the government to determine whether workers do or do not make enough.  The minimum wage should be eliminated, not raised, thereby allowing wage rates to be determined by supply and demand.  It seems curious that none of these pieces, even Mr. Ponnuru’s column, mentions that increasing the minimum wage would be likely to increase the price of Big Macs, etc. or detract from service levels as employees are eliminated, to the detriment of the general public.  And what happens to those 600K workers whose wages would be reduced to zero; will they be doomed to become wards of the welfare state?  Tax work, subsidize idleness, and batten down the hatches, 2/17/14 (point 5).
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3/20/14, A1/A12, Ruling upheld, Melissa Nann Burke – The hearing in Newark on an appeal of the zoning decision to allow TDC’s data center & power plant project to proceed at the UD Star Campus was attended by 700 people.  Supporters of the project reportedly wore green, while opponents wore red.  Two opponents are showcased with photos – big picture on page one of Nancy Boyer sitting in a dejected, face in hands pose; picture on A12 of Sherry Hofffman, formerly of the Delaware AG’s office, at the podium to “[present] the case against the proposed power plant.”  Very little is said about the supporters of the project, aside from the fact that some of them attended, although there is a smaller picture on page one of Newark’s lawyer Max Walton defending the city zoning decision that allowed the power plant as an accessory use.  Coverage of the arguments boils down to whether the power plant is a normal and incidental complement to the data center – which is the basis for the favorable zoning decision – or something out of the ordinary (if that’s true, why did they need to patent the design asks one naysayer) that should not have been allowed.  After a 3-hour hearing, the Board of Adjustment (5 members, one of whom recused himself due to a conflict of interest) took two votes. (A) On-site power generation would not harm the neighborhood (3-1); (B) Whether on-site power generation is customary in the data center industry (2-2).  The deadlock on the second question will reportedly allow the project to proceed, but opponents will apparently keep fighting.  “We’re meeting this weekend,” said Jen Wallace, “to determine our next step.”  One possibility is to challenge the outcome of the Board of Adjustment proceeding in court.  The framing of the issue seems deficient.  Whether or not it is “usual,” the power plant is an integral part of the data center (both technically and economically), not an after-thought that could be eliminated while proceeding with the data center part.
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3/19/14, A10, Democrats should back ACA – hard, Eugene Robinson – This column begins by referencing the narrow GOP victory in a recent by-election in Florida (Pinellas County) for a House seat.  The writer’s takeaway: “wishy-washy won’t work,” when Republicans “make opposition to [GovCare] the main theme of their campaigns this fall.”  Democrat Alex Sink’s position that “she wants to ‘keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong’” came across as “weak and equivocal – especially when contrasted with the bold GOP promise of repeal.”  So what Dem candidates (including Sink if she gets the chance to run against David Jolly again in November) should do, says Robinson, is to hammer home the case for GovCare.  “They should tell voters that [GovCare] is a landmark achievement – the biggest expansion of access to healthcare in decades, fulfilling a long-held progressive dream.  They should accuse their GOP opponents of playing voters for fools by cynically pretending that repeal is just around the corner. *** [They] should talk about the millions of formerly uninsured Americans who now have coverage They should talk about the millions of others who now are covered under Medicaid.  They should talk about the young people who are able to be covered under their parent’s policies.  They should talk about the diabetics and cancer survivors who now cannot be denied coverage because of their conditions.  The Democratic Party has long taken the position that no one should have to declare bankruptcy because of illness, that no one should have to choose between paying for medicine and paying the mortgage.  If Democrats can’t proclaim their beliefs with pride, why on earth are they running?”  One more thing, tell the Democratic base to turn out at the polls and stop the GOP, because “today’s Republican Party is not ‘conservative’ by any reasonable definition of the word.  It is a radical party seeking to dramatically alter the social compact by which we have lived for decades.” Other observers have praised Jolly for talking about GovCare fixes rather than simply advocating the law’s repeal. Explaining David Jolly’s win in Florida special election, David Keene, Washington Times, 3/17/14. http://bit.ly/1gPrAFz But a more telling response may be that what Americans really care about is the economy, which is definitely not being helped by GovCare – and Democrats really have no argument (certainly Robinson doesn’t suggest one) for rebutting the point.  It’s the economy, stupid!  The real lesson of the Florida race, Byron York, Washington Examiner, 3/17/14. http://washex.am/1j6nT0F
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3/18/14, A1/A13, EPA says it didn’t back data center; Power plant causes concerns, Melissa Nann Burke - This is basically an update on an earlier story by the writer, “Cleaner” power, but debate brews, 2/19/14. Readers are reminded that the EPA comments on Feb. 7 re the design of the planned data center/power plant were merely a general endorsement of the cogeneration features embodied in the facility design, not an endorsement of the specific project.  And as a preview of what will be said at the public hearing planned for Wednesday evening, which will predictably result in yet another front page story, attorney Kenneth Kristl dismisses the Combined Heat and Power Partnership (CHP) office’s analysis as “meaningless” and its methodology and conclusions as “suspect.”  For its part, The Data Center LLC (TDC) filed the Feb. 7 comments as supporting evidence in opposing the appeal of the zoning decision in its favor as well as a 2,300-signature petition supporting the project.  To date, critics have shown little interest in the economic merits of the project – which are considerable.  If Delaware wants to attract jobs, this is the wrong way to go about it.  And we wonder why the reporter did not interview some of the 2,300 people who signed the support petition.
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3/14/14, A3, State decides no more extensions for non-compliant health[care insurance] policies; Two-year delay could trigger higher insurance prices, official says, Beth Miller – This decision was announced by DE Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart, although the president had previously said “he would allow non-compliant [with Gov-Care provisions] plans to be extended through 2016 – which, some have noted, would clear the next presidential election cycle.”  Stewart earlier negotiated an extension with insurers for non-compliant HCI policies that would have expired up to the end of this month, but declined to do so again citing DE law that requires compliance with GovCare standards and forbids insurers to write non-compliant policies after 1/1/14.  Deputy Commissioner Gene Reed added that further extensions would have had an adverse effect on insurance costs because “you’re losing people,” which flies in the face of “the old adage of insurance” that “when you have large numbers of people, you’re spreading the risk.”  In our opinion, the president’s guidance in this matter – without seeking congressional approval – was legally unsupportable.  Stewart et al. deserve credit for declining to follow it.
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3/12/14, A7, Carper skips, Coons attends talk-a-thon on climate, Nicole Gaudiano – The US Senate was in session all last night, with one Democrat senator after another (31 in all) speaking on the perils of manmade global warming.  Senator Chris Coons from Delaware took the floor at 12:20 a.m. this morning, stressing the impact of sea level rise on low-lying Delaware.  Senator Tom Carper’s absence did not reflect a lack of support, but he was home in Delaware where his eldest son was visiting.  Few Republicans attended, and the chamber and visitor’s gallery were nearly empty.  Reportedly, “Republicans challenged Democrats to bring legislation to the floor to address the problem – secure in the knowledge they won’t.” Senator Coons has been adamant about this subject, as shown by his response to a recent SAFE letter to the three members of Congress from Delaware. http://bit.ly/1gRPfXg (our 2/15/14 response plus his letter).  A follow-up letter from the senator’s office added that 97% of climate scientists believe the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT), to which we replied that this claim may be “out of date.”  Poll: Nearly half of meteorologists don’t believe in man-made climate change, Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, 11/26/13. http://bit.ly/IFyy6b
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3/11/14, Civic activist John Nichols appears on Rick Jensen Show (WDEL, 1150) – In a nearly full hour segment (about a 30-minute conversation due to advertisements, weather news, etc.), Nichols discussed the Bloom Energy subsidies being used to reward the California-based fuel cell company for locating a manufacturing facility in Delaware. Here are three important points made in the conversation: (1) Bloom originally filed paperwork showing that a 27 KWH fuel cell generating station in the Coastal Zone would emit substantial volumes of SO2; then it filed an amendment showing nearly zero emissions of SO2.  DNREC cited the lower SO2 figure in its approval of the CZ permit without going into the reasons for the difference.  According to Nichols and his sources, the SO2 is removed by resin beds; the associated hazards and disposal problems were not publicly discussed.  If this matter had been addressed, could/would the Coastal Zone permit have been approved?  Perhaps the handling of this matter was due to incompetence, says Nichols, but an investigation seems warranted to see if willful misconduct was involved.  “This is a scandal,” said Jensen.  (2) The Bloom feed-in tariff continues to cost considerably more than state officials et al. estimated in 2011.  The News Journal has been publicizing the actual cost per month (e.g., $4-5) for the typical ratepayer, but ratepayers are not seeing the cost broken out on their bills.  A proceeding to consider requiring disclosure (a so-called “transparency workshop”) is pending before the PSC; it may result in disclosure of the Bloom tariff on Delmarva bills, and perhaps wind and solar subsidies as well.  DNREC opposes disclosure, however, unless some sort of “green energy” benefit is also shown.  “This is big stuff,” said Jensen, and asked how people could weigh in on the issue.  Nichols suggested they could attend the next session of the transparency workshop and observe what is going on.  Delaware PSC, 861 Silver Lake Boulevard, Dover, DE 19904, April 10 at noon. (3) Nichols and Fuel Cell Energy, Inc. filed against the PSC and the governor in June 2012, challenging the Bloom tariff on constitutional grounds. At this point, their suit represents the only possible way to spare Delaware ratepayers from paying this tariff for 20+ years.  The defendants challenged the plaintiff’s standing to bring the suit, and a hearing was held in federal court. District court hears motion to dismiss in Bloom Energy suit, 11/15/12.  Well over a year later, there has been no ruling on standing.  Meanwhile, the defendants have not answered the complaint, no discovery has taken place, etc.  As the saying goes, “justice delayed is justice denied.”
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3/9/14, A1/A7, 196% More Delawareans using food stamps; Program’s growth well ahead of national average, William McMichael, Jon Offredo & James FisherFollowing a pattern that is growing familiar, the Sunday edition is pretty well taken over by glowing coverage for a given issue on the big government team (Side A) agenda – today it’s food stamps.  This is just the first of a flurry of articles on the subject, complemented by several pieces in the editorial section.  Meanwhile, the real news in the paper – such as it is – appears in the USA Today insert.  “Simply put, more than 152,000 Delawareans – 17 percent of the population – count on government help to eat.  That’s up from 51,000 a decade ago.  And the people who oversee food stamps in the state expect demand to stay high despite a healthier US economy.”  The picture painted is that all recipients are genuinely in need, and that the benefits are – if anything – inadequate.  A statement at the end of the article complains that an increase in food stamp benefits in the economic stimulus package of 2009 was not extended last year due to “opposition from Republicans who said the benefits were ineffective and the system vulnerable to fraud.” Update: The farm bill was passed earlier this year, with little – if any – reduction in food stamp benefits. “As long as we continue to follow that pattern,” says Dan Reyes (who coordinates Food Bank’s Coalition to End Hunger), “we’re just going to keep chipping away at a program that’s designed to stimulate the economy while need increases.”  Food stamps may be justifiable on humanitarian grounds, but the idea that they and other welfare benefits stimulate the economy is nonsense.  The real economic effect is to reduce the incentive for beneficiaries to seek gainful employment – while passing the bill to the productive economy.  Tax work, subsidize idleness, and batten down the hatches, 2/17/14. Editorial discussion (several pieces, the following is a synthesis) makes some additional points. (a) PA Governor Tom Corbett (R) is backing off his efforts to cut back on the food stamps program, probably due to election year pressure plus maybe some payback for the lifting of restrictions on natural gas drilling in state parks and forests.  (b) Many food stamp recipients are employed, but perhaps in a part-time capacity or in low wage jobs so that they arguably can’t get by without assistance with food costs.  “If their incomes are barely above the poverty [line],” why aren’t they “deserving of food stamps?” And while “hectoring them to find better jobs may make some people feel good, . . . it will not solve any problems.” (c) “Tough reforms [already] cut down on cheats,” it is stated, so the program “isn’t full of waste and fraud.”  (d) The real problem is a sluggish economy, so “instead of agitating to get our fellow Delawareans off food stamps, we should be looking to job creation and boosting workers’ skills.” A Congressional Budget Office study is cited that food stamp costs are headed down and “by 2019, [it] will be at the mid-1990s level.” The explosion of the food stamp program in recent years was not simply a result of “the Great Recession,” but also reflected the reversal of prior reforms coupled with active government efforts to enroll more people in the program.  Barring active steps to pare the program, it seems unlikely that many of the present food stamp recipients will stop applying for them because they have gotten better jobs.  Decisions as to who should be supported, and for how long, are undeniably difficult – but it would be best to make them at the state level.  Accordingly, we believe the federal government should block grant the program and get out of the way.  Some food stamps history, and where to now? 4/29/13.
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3/8/14, A8, NJ publishes opposing columns on the president’s budget proposal
Budget is a road map for growth and responsibility, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, the president’s budget director since March 2013 - This column basically parrots talking points from the budget proposal, including: “Under the president’s leadership, the deficit has been cut in half as a share of the economy [and] the budget continues that progress reducing deficits as a share of the economy to 1.6 percent by 2024.”  No mention that projected taxes and fees are $3.2 trillion higher than in the CBO’s baseline projection issued last month, with no reduction in spending levels. Also doesn’t acknowledge that the deficit soared (to roundly 10% of GDP in fiscal year 2009) after the president took office, while averaging 2.2% of GDP in fiscal years 2005-2008. 
Three things we learn from Obama’s budget, Reince Priebus, RNC chairman – To wit, the president (a) isn’t serious about tackling the spending problem, (b) has given up on entitlement reform, and (c) cares more about political survival (of himself and fellow Democrats) than jobs for the American people.  It is asserted that “cutting wasteful spending would help the economy by showing that the government is serious about getting its fiscal house in order and giving business greater confidence about the future,” which “in turn, could create jobs.”  And instead of offering ideas to address the fiscal problem, “the president would rather spend his time on the campaign trail.”  OK, but what are the GOP ideas?  Compare the analysis and suggestions in our (3/10/14) blog entry.
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3/8/14, A9, Putin’s luck: Obama in office, Charles Krauthammer – The writer critiques the president’s policy decisions, which have arguably contributed to the takeover in progress by Russia of the Ukraine – a country whose territorial integrity was guaranteed by the US some years ago.  Here’s a link to the column (under a different title) in the Washington Post. http://wapo.st/MWMcU0 Despite the gravity of this situation, the president’s weekly address this week (and also two weeks ago) was on his proposal to “give America a raise” by hiking the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. http://1.usa.gov/1oAe8JN
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3/7/14, A12, Coons’ vote against lawyer was wrong – The vote in question was to join with GOP senators and six other Democrat senators in blocking the confirmation of Debo Adegbile as head of the civil rights office of the Department of Justice, an action the president labeled a “travesty.”  The knock on the nominee was his prior involvement with the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal (convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer; post-conviction appeals were pursued with extraordinary fervor by Hollywood celebrities, anti-death penalty zealots, etc. evoking the resentment of many in law enforcement).  This editorial correctly states the rationale given by Senator Coons: Adegbile was qualified, but the anger of the law enforcement community would make it impossible for him to serve effectively.  Wrong, says the editorial, as (1) Senator Coons may be up for reelection in 2014, but “he has no opponent now, and the chances of one mounting a realistic campaign against him are low” (let’s hope the Republicans get on the ball, the voters should be given a choice as to who fills this important position), and (2) all criminal defendants are entitled to counsel so it’s wrong to punish attorneys who defend them.  Further to the second point, “Mr. Adegbile took no part in the post-trial antics . . . did not mock Officer Faulkner’s widow as others did . . . was a lawyer and acted professionally.” It’s ironic that the News Journal would take issue with one of the few controversial votes by Senator Coons with which we have agreed.  According to other sources, Adegbile went out of his way to get the NAACP legal staff involved in the death penalty appeal at a time when Mumia Abu-Jamal was already more than adequately represented.  One might fairly conclude, as Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) did for one, that this action was indicative of poor judgment or worse.  More criticism of Obama pick for Justice post, Joseph Slobodzian, Philly.com, 2/5/14. http://bit.ly/1gXLm2Q
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3/7/14, A13, Obama’s folly inspires Putin to fill power vacuum, Wayne Smith (former state House Majority Leader, now CEO of Delaware Healthcare Association) – In a lengthy and well-reasoned column, the writer argues that the US response to the developing crisis in the Ukraine has been weak and ineffective, with the primary problem being that the president and his secretary of state simply don’t get it that Putin’s Russia will not be deterred by empty rhetoric.  Among other things, Smith suggests that Russia should have been immediately booted out of the G-8, the forthcoming G-8 (now G-7) meeting in June moved from Russia to the US, the formerly scrapped missile defense agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic reinstated, and the pending budget proposal to cut US forces by 50,000 soldiers be changed to a 25,000 soldier increase.  Whether these suggestions are exactly right or not, we think they go in the right direction.  Moreover, this column shows the breadth of Smith’s political vision.  He has previously written instructively about domestic policy issues.  See, e.g., “Our tax system: 44,000 pages of favors and confusion,” 2/4/13
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3/5/14, A1/A6, Record Bloom energy Delmarva surcharges hovers at near $6, Aaron Nathans – Another story about the monthly surcharge that will inflate the next round of Delmarva bills, with sound bites from various political figures.  Rep. Dennis Williams (D-Talleyville) “Obviously, when we started looking at this at the beginning, we didn’t expect anything near where it is now.  I think we have to look and see why that is, what the calculation is, and what’s driving this.” Somewhat in this vein, Delmarva is currently refining the amount of electricity used by an average household in Delaware from 1,000 KWH per month to 975 KWH per month, which if used in the April calculation would have reduced the surcharge shown paid by the average family from $5.98 to $5.83.  Democratic House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf said the surcharge was higher than anyone expected [Some independent analysts were on the button, they simply were not listened to!] but his main question, reportedly, “was whether the job creation at the factory, as well as its economic impact on the area, was keeping pace with the state’s expectations when lawmakers passed the Bloom bill in 2011.” Why should the promised jobs be of any consolation to Delmarva ratepayers?  The point might be arguable if the state government was paying the subsidy instead of the Delmarva ratepayers.  GOP State Chairman Charlie Copeland expressed concern that Bloom surcharge is still not being broken out on Delmarva bills; he also pointed out that the surcharge has totaled $19.6 million over the past six months, which was “pulled right out of the Delaware economy and sent to venture capitalists in California.  How does that help Delaware?”  DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara reportedly “declined to address Copeland’s criticisms.”  According to a Delmarva memo to the PSC, “$1.33 of the April surcharge is due to high natural gas costs stemming from the extreme winter weather in January.”  Natural gas prices soared this winter, which understandably boosted the surcharge but should even out over time. Another factor in high natural gas cost has been lower than forecast efficiency of the Bloom Energy fuel cells, which has boosted the volume of fuel required – and will probably continue to do so.   
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3/5/14, A10, How much will you pay for clean water? – If no one disputes the idea of cleaning up rivers, streams, ponds and lakes, which are said to be “seriously polluted,” then how can anyone be against a proposed new tax (aka household service fee) that would cost the average homeowner $45 per year?  Ditto, a 10¢ per gallon increase in the state gas tax to pay for part of proposed increases in the road and bridge budget.  So “we have to ask the questions: Do we want clean water?  If so, how and when do we plan to pay for it?”  First, define “clean water” – eliminating pollution is always a matter of degree.  Second, money is fungible, so tying a particular tax to a particular use is a matter of bookkeeping rather than economics.  Real questions are (1) do taxpayers want to pay more taxes (in total) so the government can spend more money (in total), and, if so, (2) will the side effects of the tax increases on the state economy be bearable?  At a minimum, one should begin by asking what wasteful spending could be eliminated in order to undertake programs thought to be more desirable.  The media and politicians, however, seem to assume that the only possible question is what added taxes can be levied.
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2/27/14, B1/B2, Lawmakers bemoan Medicaid’s soaring costs, seek solutions, Jonathan Starkey – Delaware’s Medicaid program is now projected to consume about $700M (18%) of the $3.8B budget proposal, which is about double the $357M spent in 2004.  The latest $26M increase (from the prior year) is not due to the decision to expand Medicaid coverage in accord with GovCare; that will be covered by federal dollars and will supposedly save DE $46M on Delawareans already being covered.  However, “the state is nevertheless seeing a higher bill next year because of a reduction in the federal marching rate – from 55 percent to 53 percent – for those receiving coverage under traditional Medicaid coverage.”  A bit of legislative pushback is developing against this ever-growing component of the state budget.  Thus, according to Rep. Joe Miro (R-Pike Creek): “We cannot sustain the expenditures that we have with the income that we’re generating.  Everybody on [the budget] committee realizes we need to do something.”  This story was inconspicuously placed (a story on a proposal to save $1.8M per year by axing a private school bus stipend rated a splashy spread on pages A1/A2), and it does not report any proposals for action beyond the old standby of reducing “fraud.”  Compare Delaware’s fiscal situation: a case study, 4/27/09. “What can be done about Medicaid here, before it bankrupts the state government?  Without claiming to have the answers, we think the time has come for a fresh look at eligibility requirements, services covered, and options for providing needed services more cost effectively. Some may envision the federal government providing a rising share of the funding for Medicaid, but this seems unlikely.  Indeed, having grave fiscal problems of its own, the federal government may be forced to cut back in this area.”
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2/25/14, A8, Boosting minimum wage wold benefit economy, Chandra Crippen (a fast food worker, mom and Wilmington resident) – The writer describes her visit to the White House as one of the people invited to witness the president signing an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 per hour.  “The president made it clear,” she writes, “that this is just the beginning,” i.e., “Congress must take responsibility and raise the minimum wage for all workers” and “he also called on fast food and other low-wage workers to continue our fight.”  In this regard, Crippen participated with other Delaware fast food workers on December 5 in “a national strike” (130 cities) for higher pay.  She says fast food workers are not paid enough to live, and increasingly are adults (many raising children) rather than teenagers.  Many people think they should get better jobs so as to make more, but “jobs with middle-class paychecks and security are disappearing.”  And underpaying workers creates a vicious cycle, because the low-income workers have little money to spend and business slows to a crawl, which helps to explain why “the recovery from the recession has been so weak.”  With “a $15 per hour wage floor for food workers,” she and others could “afford the basics and boost Delaware’s economy.”  What about the effect on prices if wage levels are raised in the proposed manner, and also the effect on job availability?  This sort of “bootstrap economics” is a cruel delusion.
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2/25/14, A9, Reminder of shutdown comes with Senate vote – This editorial references a scheduled vote in the Senate on the “Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act,” described as an “opportunity to expand a wide range of well-earned veterans benefits sidelined by a wasteful political exercise,” namely the “reckless government shutdown” (to quote Senator Chris Coons) last fall that supposedly “led to the loss of quality healthcare, educational and employment help they [veterans and service members] were due.”  The unpopular cut in certain military pensions did not result from the “shutdown,” but rather was a product of the negotiated budget deal in December that has previously been lauded as an example of bipartisan cooperation. Budget deal shows compromise isn’t a dirty word, Ted Kaufman, 12/29/13.  Moreover, this was one of the few genuine cost cuts in the budget deal – although we ourselves did not particularly like it.  Smoke and mirrors, SAFE newsletter, winter 2013. http://bit.ly/1daGNEw Should one infer that the News Journal sees no reason to cut government spending, except perhaps when it comes to slashing military force levels at a time when international challenges are on the upswing? 
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2/20/14, A10, Obamacare critics misrepresenting “job killer” claim, Saul Hoffman (UD economist) – Without disputing a Congressional Budget Office estimate that GovCare will promote reduced employment, the writer attempts to minimize it.  (A) Critics are overlooking the “federal deficit good news” in the CBO report.  (B) The predicted 2% net reduction in employment over the next decade is “a relatively small number,” and it will come about because – as the CBO “went to great pains to emphasize” - some workers will voluntarily choose to work less rather than having fewer job opportunities. (C) The effect on employment decisions is unavoidable as a healthcare subsidy that did not phase out for people with higher income would be much more expensive than the program that was enacted. Besides, the critics are being “entirely hypocritical” because “the recent Republican proposal for individual health[care] insurance includes exactly the same work disincentives as Obamacare.”  Call to action: “We ought to focus now on ways to improve Obamacare and not get distracted by peripheral and insignificant issues.”  Comments: (1) The work disincentive inherent in GovCare is part and parcel of a larger pattern that is far from insignificant, and the CBO’s deficit projections are hardly good news. Tax work, subsidize idleness, and batten down the hatches, 2/17/14.  (2) We aren’t sure what “Republican proposal” is referenced, but would agree that its effect on employment deserves careful scrutiny.  (3) Professor Hoffman keeps talking about how everyone should focus on improving GovCare without offering any suggestions; his only real point seems to be bashing Republicans. Obamacare needs to be strengthened, not defunded, 10/16/13.
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2/19/14, A1/A2, “Cleaner” power, but debate brews, Melissa Nann Burke – Another big story about the proposed data center/power plant at the UD Star Campus, this one taking up – including a big rendering of the proposed complex with legends – about 1/3 of the front page plus a lengthy continuation on page 2.  The new development is the release by TDC of a 2/7/14 EPA letter indicating that the cogeneration features of the project (heat content of steam used rather than vented into the atmosphere) could “significantly reduce emissions of nitrous oxides and sulfur and carbon dioxides, compared with traditional power plants.”  Critics are quoted at length, however, that the EPA analysis was generic in nature – did not consider the placement of the power plant or how it might affect local residents - and did not refute the purported fact that the project would “produce 950,00 tons of carbon a year.” Query: Is this supposed to be the weight of CO2 emissions or of the carbon portion of CO2 emissions?  Therefore, it is claimed, TDC should use renewable power (like Bloom Energy fuel cells, that emit proportionately more CO2 than this project?) and/or get its power from the interstate grid so they don’t need a big power plant. Effects on the project economics are seen, of course, as beside the point.
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2/17/14, A1/A9, Kerry lashes out at climate change deniers; Secretary of state calls for new global energy policy, Matthew Lee (AP) – It’s well known that Secretary Kerry is a global warming alarmist, and that the administration is trying to strike some kind of a deal with China re coordinated efforts to reduce carbon emissions.  In this story, Kerry’s remarks in Indonesia are reported at some length.  The use of hyperbole and invective is reminiscent of Al Gore’s rants on the subject.  Per Kerry, climate change is perhaps the world’s “most fearsome” destructive weapon – “we simply don’t have time to let a few loud interest groups hijack the climate conversation” – shame on “big companies” that “don’t want to change and spend a lot of money,” e.g., oil and coal companies – let’s not “allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts” – don’t cut any slack “for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.”  The solution: “a new global energy policy that shifts reliance from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies,” a shift being championed by the president and which Kerry urges “others to appeal to their leaders to join.”  If the facts were overwhelming as claimed, Kerry might not find it necessary to resort to this type of rhetoric.  He must be getting desperate!
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2/15/14, Winning bid for Fisker $149M; Offer by Wanxiang includes old GM plant, Aaron Nathans – The judge rejected a prepackaged bankruptcy plan and ordered an auction of Fisker’s assets, with the interesting result that Wanxiang’s winning bid far eclipsed the previously reported offer of $25M by Hybrid Tech Holdings.  Judge Kevin Gross will [presumably] decide next week to approve acceptance of the Wanxiang bid.  Does this turn of events mean that Fisker’s electric cars will be produced at the Boxwood plant in Delaware after all?  Time will tell, but the odds have apparently improved.  Reportedly, Wanxiang “has said that if there is enough market demand for the Fisker Atlantic, it will mass produce the cars there.”  The problem is that this venture is dependent on heavy government subsidies, which in our view should be eliminated rather than increased.  Let the market decide re the production of electric cars, not the government!
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2/15/14, B1/B2, Carper backs COLA cuts; joins GOP against bill to restore reduction, Nicole Gaudiano - One of the few genuine spending cuts in the recent budget deal was an adjustment of pre-retirement age pension benefits of military personnel, which was estimated to save $6B over 10 years.  As we previously noted, “It would not be surprising to see this decision reversed next year.”  SAFE newsletter, winter 2013. http://bit.ly/1daGNEw Now a bill to repeal the pension adjustment, and substitute a meaningless extension of “automatic spending cuts” a decade from now, has been passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and will presumably be signed by the president.  The story is that Senator Tom Carper voted against the bill, citing the gravity of the fiscal problem and the need for “people like me to provide some leadership.”  Carper’s votes for fiscal responsibility always seem to target legislation that is sure to pass anyway.  A previous example was his vote against the “fiscal cliff” deal at the start of 2013. A litany of second thoughts about the latest fiscal fix (story A), 1/3/13
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2/13/14-2/14/14, Governor Markell’s proposal to hike DE gas tax by 10¢ per gallon is hitting resistance – The idea is to fund approximately half of a proposed $500B infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.) program with tax increases, principally the gas tax hike. Legislators are leery of raising taxes in an election year, and the GOP – well aware that the proposal will stall without their support – is showing signs of life for a change.  One complication (noted in a front page story on 2/13) is that the governor wants to index the increased gas tax for inflation to avoid “having to come back to these difficult conversations” in the future.  As might be expected, there have been no apparent objections to the proposed spending increases. In our opinion, the proposed relocation of US 301 in the Middletown area is a costly boondoggle, which can and should be dropped.  DE Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson has suggested (“A taxing budget no way to turn economy around,” A12, 2/14) that it’s time to stop “nickel and diming” Delawareans to death.  Thus, “since 2008, we’ve seen increases to the personal income tax, estate tax, corporate franchise tax, vehicle registration fee, vehicle titling fee, RGGI tax on energy, Bloom surcharge tax on energy, higher minimum wage requirement tax on business, state tax on casino revenue, gross receipts tax, property tax for Wilmington businesses and residents, and water and sewer taxes in Wilmington and New Castle County. *** If the governor continues to rob Peter to pay Paul, pretty soon Peter’s going to run out of money.” As an alternative, let’s create a “business-friendly climate” in Delaware by creating right to work zones in targeted areas of the state and having “a serious conversation about prevailing wage, which drives up the cost of public construction projects and wastes taxpayer money by guaranteeing union-scale wages.” Look at other states that have a different problem: how to spend or rebate to taxpayers the projected surpluses generated by economic recovery. Senator Simpson’s analysis leaves out the elephant in the living room, relentless growth of Medicaid outlays.
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2/14/14, A13, Dangerous implications of STAR campus zoning, Carl King (Newark) – The writer alleges that “there is indeed an error in Newark’s zoning for the STAR campus,” but he’s apparently not talking about the proposed data center/power plant.  According Mr. King, the rail siding in the area – designed for loading car carriers serving the former Chrysler plant – is now being used as a siding for tank cars carrying crude oil.  Such operations are dangerous, and if there was a Boiling Liquid, Expanding Vapor Explosion (or BLEVE), nearby structures – including the data center – might be entirely destroyed.  See next story for a related perspective.
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2/14/14, B1/B2, PBF emphasizes safety; Company aims to increase crude amounts, Jeff Montgomery – Although it’s far from a complete answer to the concerns of critics like environmental activist Amy Roe, PBF is transitioning to the use of “only the newest or safest-built rail cars for all crude oil deliveries to the Delaware City Refinery by July.”  CEO Tom Nimbley described this policy change as “an important step to increase the safety of our operation,” and Chairman Thomas O’Malley “described reliance on modern safety standard cars as a matter of ‘great importance’ to the company as the Delaware City rail hub reaches full capacity.”  Still, there are inevitably risks involved in the rail transport of oil and operating procedures of the rail carriers also need to be scrutinized.
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2/13/14-2/14/14 – Frigid temperatures, snow and ice grip much of the nation – For two days running, the News Journal led with the weather.  “Massive storm paralyzes the south” was the headline on 2/13; the next day it was “BURIED: Nearly a foot of snowfall leaves Delaware digging all day.”  In each case, there was plenty of supporting detail and pictures.  But according to the NJ, this just underscores the claims of global warming alarmists by showing that “‘Extreme weather’ no longer is rare” (editorial, 2/13/14, A13). Just before the storm hit, the US Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on “Extreme Weather Events: The Costs of Not Being Prepared” with “speaker after speaker” offering dire warnings.  DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara was said to be the bluntest:  “We need to stop rewarding communities that fail to prepare.  They get everything paid for, they get all the shiny new infrastructure.  It’s completely crazy!”  And Senator Tom Carper  is quoted to the effect that “Extreme weather events” – from extreme snowstorms in the East to extreme droughts in the West at the same time – are growing steadily more expensive and dangerous.  O’Mara was called on to testify, the editorial says, because “Delaware is far ahead of other states” in “pushing for modernized storm water, floodplain and drainage regulations and standards” that “other states are not even thinking about.”  Also, the First State “has recognized the threat of sea-level rise and the effect it will have on the state’s economy and public safety.”  The rising cost of “extreme weather events” is largely due to population growth and building in vulnerable areas. We agree government policies that subsidize such decisions need to be reconsidered.  But there is no excuse for alarmist claims that “extreme weather events” are becoming more common due to global warming, thereby providing an excuse for draconian government-imposed solutions.  See, e.g., “Climate scientists slam Obama science adviser’s [John Holdren’s] ‘pseudo-science rambling’ on global warming, Michael Bastach, Daily Caller, 2/14/14.  http://bit.ly/1f5nSdN
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2/12/14, A11, Just another effort to dupe low-wage workers, Ted Pankowski (Pike Creek) – After attacking a proposed right to work law and Mike Protack, the writer goes after environmentalists. “Amy Roe and her cult are against the impending data center, which will create hundreds of jobs for Delaware workers.  She would like to see the refinery closed and hurt hundreds of families who will suffer job losses and receive poverty-level unemployment check[s].  If Amy is so against oil production, why isn’t she riding a horse and buggy and heating her home with firewood and living electricity-free.” The environmentalists deny that they are out to cripple the economy, of course, but the effects of their activities could do just that.
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2/12/14, A11, GOP punted badly on new farm bill subsidy, Pete Norton (Wilmington) – “The recently approved federal farm bill is a victory not for bipartisan compromise but [for] the entitlement farm-subsidy status quo.” Initial GOP demands to delink food stamps and agricultural support payments, and to make food stamps eligibility contingent on asset tests or work requirements fell by the wayside, and the supposed “reform” of food stamps is estimated to save “a mere $8 billion over 10 years or 1 percent.”   Congratulations to the writer for a good response to a recent News Journal editorial: Compromise really works - sometimes, 2/6/14.
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2/11/14, A1/A7, Second appeal filed on zoning [for Newark Data Center; Grassroots group challenging decision, Melissa Nann Burke – This is the second front page story in four days re tenacious opposition to the data center/power plant proposal at UD Star Campus.  The first was “Newark resident appeals ruling; Ex-state attorney challenges zoning,” 2/7/14.  The complainants this time are “Newark Residents Against the Power Plant . . . Delaware Audubon Society . . . five Newark residents [Michael Griffin, Anne Willing-Solan, Barry Solan, and John & Sarah Milbury-Steen].  The complainants are represented by Kenneth Kristi, Esq. who is affiliated with an environmental law clinic at Widener Law School.  According to Kristi, the clinic got involved because the project “raises important legal and environmental issues that should be resolved before this project is allowed to move forward.”  Cutting to the chase, the zoning decision is being characterized as “unlawful” because the complainants don’t agree with it.  Notice that the state environmental review was put on hold until after the zoning decision, so in effect the complainants want to tie the project up with two stages of environmental review.  If this keeps up, the project may wind up being scrubbed – to the economic detriment of the city of Newark and the state of Delaware.  Why is the News Journal giving so much coverage to this scorched earth defense, when they claim to be pro-growth and pro-jobs?
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2/11/14. A10, Common Core isn’t a government conspiracy, A10, [Governor] Jack Markell & [former GOP Governor of Georgia] Sonny Perdue, who were co-chairmen of the Common Core State Standards Initiative – This essay claims that opponents of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) “misrepresent the initiative as a federal program,” and/or “support the status quo [as] new assessments show that students aren’t performing as well as they had on easier state tests offered previously.” And with some success, as “legislation has been introduced in at least 12 states to prohibit implementation [of CCSS] and [some] states have dropped out of the two major Common Core assessment consortia.”  But it’s nonsense that CCSS inhibits local control over the curriculum, as “how educators teach the standards is entirely up to them.”  Thus in Delaware, elementary instructors developed “a creative hands-on lesson” to teach basic physics concepts such as force and motion to 4th graders by having them build and refine toy sail cars.  One teacher is quoted that the hands-on practice that students “are getting now is teaching them way better than any worksheet or textbook.”   A second-grade math class in Michigan is using “bar models,” emulating a technique used “in some of the highest-performing schools in the world.” English teachers at South Middle School in Grand Forks, ND, are “incorporating a discussion model that leads to a deeper understanding of texts [by asking] students to think critically about the values of a narrator.”  So now the goal of “elected officials and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Governors’ Council” will be “to publicize the facts about Common Core and challenge misinformation about what the standards mean.” And, “if we put the focus on the great work being done to implement Common Core in classrooms across the US, instead of debating abstract political rhetoric, we will give our students the opportunities they deserve.”  The Delaware governor has previously dismissed the idea that CCSS was a clever way to circumvent the legal prohibition on federal educational standards.  Markell riles doubters, 9/20/13.  Now he seems to be taking the critics a bit more seriously, at least offering examples that arguably help to make his case.  But if teachers could really teach whatever they wanted in the classroom with the CCSS, it’s hard to see why the standards would matter.  Also, a belief that competition and choice are the real keys to improving the deplorable US educational system is not the same thing as supporting the status quo.  For further discussion, see “Will Common Core standards enhance US education?” 8/5/13.
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2/10/14, A10, Make 2014 “a year of action” on environment, James Collins (a senior v-p of the DuPont Company) – “Under fire from the DC petroleum lobby,” says Collins, the EPA “is proposing to cap the amount of biofuels that will be blended into the nation’s fuel supply in 2014 at a level far below what was blended last year.”  This decision will supposedly “stifle clean energy investments and worse, lock our children into continued dependence on foreign oil.”  The column goes on to applaud the legislation enacted in 2007, which “has allowed biofuels to account for 10 percent of our nation’s gasoline supply . . . lowered greenhouse gas emissions by 33.4 million metric tons, helped the value of US farmland grown by $500 billion, depressed gas prices by $1.09 per gallon . . . given Americans a real choice at the pump.”  The idea that just so much biofuel can be blended into motor fuel is assailed as the mythical “blend wall.”  Indeed, according to the writer, “E-15 is the most widely tested fuel alternative in history.”  And then there is the DuPont Company, which was “called upon to innovate” and answered the call by investing “hundreds of millions of dollars in science and innovation to develop the exact technologies that make these economic and environmental gains possible.”  Later this year, in fact, DuPont will open a 30M gallon per year refinery to convert otherwise wasted corncobs, husks and leaves into fuel with zero net carbon emissions. We have no problem with biofuels per se, especially if produced from agricultural waste versus corn (as DuPont plans to do), but claiming that the programs mandated in 2007 (re motor fuel and also light bulbs) foster consumer choice is a real stretch.  And if the claimed motor fuel price reduction due to the use biofuels were true, there would be no need for a mandate anyway.  Our suggestion would be to eliminate the biofuel mandate, get the government out of the picture, and let the market decide how motor fuel should be produced. See also previous story: DuPont defends biofuels against EPA proposal, 12/13/13.
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2/9/14, A27, Why make cuts from a needed agency like the IRS?  Ted Kaufman – In the past three years, according to the writer, “the IRS budget has been cut from $12.1 billion in 2010 to $11.1 billion in fiscal 2014,” with a reduction of 8,000 employees and a big cut in training programs.  Meanwhile, the workload keeps getting bigger and the audit rate is dropping.  Ergo, the agency may be losing revenue far exceeding the administrative cost savings, which is “insane by any rational standard if the objective is to help balance the budget.”  Besides that, if the IRS had been more adequately staffed they might have dealt more professionally with “the sudden growth in the number of groups claiming very complicated 501(c)(4) status” instead of resorting to “shortcuts that helped them save time.”  And while we can all agree that it might be nice to balance the budget, why not do “what President’s George H.W. Bush [no surpluses on his watch!] and Bill Clinton [under GOP pressure] did to generate large surpluses – use a smart mix of spending cuts [which Kaufman talks about, but never identifies] and modest revenue increases [define “modest”].”  We agree the IRS should be adequately funded, but it’s about time to cut their workload by overhauling and vastly simplifying the tax law.  As for the idea that the harassment of tea party groups was due to the IRS being short-handed, we’re inclined to think that this affair indicates just the opposite.  And the intended involvement of the IRS in GovCare enforcement will further detract from the agency’s prime mission of collecting tax revenues. 
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2/8/14, A8, Climate change reality is a certifiable given, Gary Romer (Wilmington) – The writer notes that “a recent letter writer cited the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to support his assertion that climate change doom predictions are not real.  It’s encouraging to see the writer knows of the IPCC and respects its authority.”  Let’s hope he carefully reads the IPCC’s 2013 “Summary for Policy Makers” [leaked draft of a report to be issued in 2014?] that “clearly sets out the scientific consensus regarding climate change.”  See also a statement in 2001 by former President George W. Bush, a 2007 statement by Senator John McCain, and a statement on the DuPont Company website re “the global scientific understanding of climate change” being “sufficient to compel prompt, effective actions to limit emissions of greenhouse gases.”  Accordingly, the writer concludes, “what to do to avoid adverse climate change is a fair subject for debate,” but “the reality of climate change is not.”  Bush and McCain are hardly scientists, and DuPont’s position on this matter is tainted by self-interest.  Moreover, the global warming trend has stopped since 1998, and there is no scientific consensus about whether it will resume or a global cooling trend will ensue.
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2/7/14, A9/A10, PSC approves lawmaker; Kowalko can question Delmarva Power, Aaron Nathans – PSC voted 3-0 to permit Rep. John Kowalko to be a formal intervener in a case re whether Delmarva Power will be allowed to effect major changes in the ratemaking process.  A similar request by Rep. Edward Osienski was tabled as he was not present at the meeting.  State Public Advocate David Bonar opposed the request on grounds that the would-be interveners were trying to do his job.  Kowalko’s argument was that he needed to be an intervener to properly understand the issues, and that he had been misled previously on the impact of the Bloom Energy surcharge. A13, Wanted: Public Advocate to side against DP&L, Jean Skibinski, Beverly Schofield, Susan Meany, Bill Wheatley, Newark – Why is Mr. Bonar so set on opposing right of consumers to be represented, yet “he suggests no limitation on the cadre of lawyers who are permitted to represent Delmarva”?  Experience has shown that “we cannot trust the Public Advocate to represent the people.”  If consumers are being charged for the Delmarva attorneys, this may be a pretty good point. And given the general lack of confidence in the PA, it would make sense to abolish the office as a needless burden on DE taxpayers.
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2/7/14, A1/A2, Newark resident appeals ruling; Ex-state attorney challenges zoning, Melissa Nann Burke – Appeal by Sherry Hoffman, a retired state deputy attorney general, asked the Newark Board of Adjustment “to throw out a Jan. 17 decision by city planner Maureen Feeney Roser that allowed plans for the data-center project in Newark to move ahead.”  Among other things, the ruling is supposedly at odds with Newark’s future land-use plan, which says “growth cannot be permitted to negatively impact our local and regional environment.”  This is the NJ’s “top story” for the day? Just goes to show that opponents of the project will fight it every step of the way, which has been evident for some time.
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2/6/14, Compromise really works – sometimes, A11 – The subject of this NJ editorial is the farm bill that is on its way to the president for signature, to the delight of many in Washington.  This “took two years” because “food stamps were held hostage,” but finally “conferences of Democrats and Republicans patched together a bill that restores some cuts to the food stamp program and cuts the direct subsidies to farmers that have been annoying believers in frugal government for years.”  However, “the bill will push much of the aid to a form of insurance, which some critics believe will be abused much like the subsidies” and “the sugar tariffs stay” so as to “[make] a handful of big businesses in key states very rich.”  Which goes to show that “the leaders are learning how to work a compromise.”  Really, legislative “log rolling” is something new?  And this bill will cost nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years, a big jump over the cost of the farm bill passed in 2008.  Chris Edwards, Cato, 1/27/14.  http://bit.ly/1nXh99o
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2/4/14, A6/A7, Bloom surcharge tops $5, Aaron Nathans – Once the News Journal reported low ball estimates of how much the Bloom Energy subsidy would cost as gospel; now the wheel has turned.  As the current story breathlessly reports, “the surcharge on March bills will be $5.48 for a customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month,” topping the previous record of $4.77 on February bills.  The formula involved is complicated, and the figure will fluctuate from month to month, but the total subsidy paid to Bloom keeps going up – it was $3.79M in March vs. $3.51M in February.  Predictably, legislators who voted for this arrangement in 2011 without asking any questions are now expressing concerns.  Thus, Rep. James Johnson (D-New Castle) is quoted that “I think we should review it.  I would have expected it would go down, not up.”  Too late!  Delmarva customers will be bearing the burden of this deal for the next 20 years. Compare: House clears way for surcharge, 6/24/11.
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1/31/14, A1/A7, Minimum wage hike is signed into law, Jon Offredo – Under the bill that was enacted, the DE minimum wage will rise from the current $7.25 per hour (same as federal) to $7.75 on 6/1/14 & $8.25 on 6/1/15.  Although the president is advocating an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, that proposal “is not expected to pass Congress.”  Governor Jack Markell is quoted that “raising the minimum wage represents one of the fastest ways we can act to give a boost to many struggling working families,” and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robert Marshall said “we all feel good about the fact Delaware’s minimum wage will be increased one dollar, and we all know that Delaware workers win when the governor signs the bill.”  However, Republican legislators (not named) reportedly argued that “the increase was too soon, could cost jobs, pile an additional financial burden onto small businesses, and hurt those who need the extra dollars the most.”  Not to belabor the point, as our view has been expressed repeatedly, we think the minimum wage serves no constructive purpose and should be abolished.
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1/31/14, A13, What was positive about the State of the Union? Ruth Marcus (Washington Post) – What did the president say about the debt and controlling entitlement spending?  Aside from “a glancing reference to ‘bringing down our deficit in a balanced way’ and “the number games about ‘deficits cut by more than half,’” says Marcus, “the presidential silence was . . . deafening.”  Even after “the vaunted halving,” the fiscal year 2013 deficit was $680 billion and 4.1% of GDP, which is said to have been “higher in percentage terms than in all but seven years between 1948 and 2008.”  Moreover, there has been “a stunning rise in the amount of debt as a share of the economy,” and that number is projected to start climbing again by 2018.  If something is not done, this will “[constrain] policymakers’ flexibility to respond to emergencies such as war or recession” and “[raise] the risk of a fiscal crisis in which investors become unwilling to finance US borrowing.”  We often disagree with this writer’s columns, but this one is basically on target.
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1/29/14, A1/A6, Obama: America does not stand still; President vows he will sidestep Congress in fight for economic fairness as gap between rich, poor grows, Julie Pace (AP) – “Draped in presidential grandeur, Obama’s hour-long address served as the opening salvo in a midterm election fight for control of Congress that will quickly consume Washington’s attention.  Democrats, seeking to cast Republicans as uncaring about the middle class, have urged Obama to focus on economic mobility and the gap between the wealthy and poor.  His emphasis on executive actions was greeted with shouts of ‘Do it!’ from many members of his party.” Basically accurate story, but are Americans truly satisfied with this brand of leadership?
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1/29/14, A1/A 6, Delaware wants action on climate change and jobs, Jonathan Starkey & Jeff Montgomery – The reported zest for action is due at least in part to the Delawareans who were asked for comments re the president’s State of the Union address.  Here’s the list: Paul Calistro, executive director of the Wilmington community center West End Neighborhood House; Thomas Powers, director of UD Center for Science, Ethics and Public Policy; Ezra Temko, Delaware organizer for Americans for Democratic Action; Sher Valenzuela, business person (the lone conservative in the lot, she questioned the benefits of raising the minimum wage); Brenna Goggin, environmental advocate for the Delaware Nature Center; and DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara. 
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1/29/14, A1/A2, Expect a bigger charter footprint; Public schools are OK with the competition, Matthew Albright – Five charter schools are set to open this fall, with five more seeking approval, Delaware “set to add thousands of students to a rapidly growing charter network.”  There are currently 21 charters serving 11.1K students vs. 13 charters serving 6.3K students in 2003. Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, said the proposed charters offer many new choices.  Delaware STEM Academy – focus on science, technology, engineering & math – work up to 600 students in grades 9-12.  Freire Charter – bring to Wilmington a Philadelphia school model that has existed since 1998 – geared toward urban, low-income students, college prep focus and strict non-violence policy.  Great Oaks Charter would replicate a 3-year-old school in Newark, NJ, that specializes in “high-dosage” tutoring & recruits recent college graduates as mentors – work up to 600 students in grades 6-9.  Pike Creek Charter Middle School would be located in the current Delaware Swim and Fitness facility, focus on student’s health & fitness in addition to academics – work up to 390 students, relieving reported “overcrowding” in the Red Clay district. Mapleton Charter School would serve residents of the Town of Whitehall – a community development planned for New Castle Country – using the Expeditionary Learning charter model that Wilmington Kuumba Academy currently uses and aiming for 600 students in grades K-5.
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1/28/14, A9, Global warming may be worse than feared, Eugene Robinson – “The rallying cry of the denialists – ‘It’s cold outside, so global warming must be a crock!’ – can only be taken seriously by those with a toddler’s limited conception of time and space.  They forget that it’s winter, and apparently they don’t quite grasp that even when it’s cold in one part of the world, it can be hot in another.”  Robinson goes on to attribute the absence of any global warming since 1998 to choosing a starting year in which “global temperatures took a huge, anomalous, one-time leap.”  Throw out 1998 and “you see a steady and unbroken rise.” [Not really – the average global temperature data have essentially flat-lined for 15 years.]  And as to why it is so obviously “getting warmer,” manmade global warming “is the only explanation that fits the evidence.  Until someone comes up with a better theory, it is foolish to wager that the near-unanimous consensus of climate scientists is totally wrong.” Accordingly, the president, “who understands the science, should use his executive powers as best he can, not just to reduce carbon emissions, but to prepare the country for confronting the environmental, political and military hazards of a warmer world.” Give Robinson credit for having done some homework, but he manages to (1) misstate the arguments of climate realists in order to ridicule them, and (2) ignore all contrary evidence including puzzling changes in solar activity that may herald a long-term cooling trend. Compare our analysis: “Despite contrary evidence, global warming alarmists stick to their guns,” 1/27/14.
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1/28/14, A1/A10, Coons keys on manufacturing, Nicole Gaudiano – Senator Coons is quoted to the effect that if the president stresses the need for a jobs manufacturing campaign in his State of the Union address, this could “lead to immediate progress on bipartisan legislation.”  A somewhat similar note is struck by the editorial on A9, “Speech should focus on jobs growth.”  Accordingly to the editorial, “the debate could easily shift by the way it is framed.  Make it about ‘inequality’ and we are off on a useless political argument.  *** [What is needed is] solid ideas that can be debated and amended to the point that something will be done – ease regulations, remove taxes or provide investment.”  Americans will soon hear what the president has to say, but the advance hints don’t suggest a middle of the road message.  Proposals to materially “ease regulations” are especially unlikely.
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1/28/14, A6, Consumers called to conserve power today, Aaron Nathans – The regional electricity grid operator is calling on consumers to conserve electric power today due to frigid winter weather, especially from 6-10 AM and from 5-9 PM.  “Conservation includes setting thermostats lower than usual; postponing electric appliance usage like stoves, dishwaters and clothes dryers; and turning off lights and appliances you are not using.”  In due course, if electric power suppliers don’t get off the kick of saving money by trying to reduce usage during peak demand periods vs. building economical new capacity, there will be a move to make this sort of curtailment mandatory versus voluntary (don’t expect much response to the current request!).
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1/25/14, A1/A2, Heat is on for climate action; Del. delegates hope Obama stands pat, Nicole Gaudiano – EPA rules essentially outlawing new coal power plants as well as endangering existing coal power plants have been proposed, and Side A is looking for the president to reinforce the do it without Congress if we have to line in his forthcoming State of the Union address.  Some Republican leaders, e.g., Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, are quoted as seeing things differently – but not so any members of Congress from Delaware.  Here are the sound bites: Senator Tom Carper: “The president needs to show leadership and commitment to sticking with it.  If he does, I think most Americans will decide to follow him, and I hope most of my colleagues.”  Senator Chris Coons: “We need to do more as a country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help vulnerable communities, including many in Delaware, adapt to the changes that have already begun.”  Representative John Carney: “Given the gridlock in Congress,” the president should continue to do whatever he can on climate change.  A USA Today/ Stanford University/ Resources for the Future poll (810 respondents nationwide, released last month) is cited, which reportedly shows that 75% of Americans say “the US should take action on global warming even if other nations do less.”  The poll also indicates 55% support – down from 61% in 2006 – “for federally imposed reductions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.” Josh Zive, counsel to the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, predicts “years of litigation” because the new emission standards are based on mandating the use of CO2 sequestration technology that is “decades away from commercial viability.” Our forthcoming (1/27/14) blog entry will present an update on the manmade global warming theory, which is not well supported by the evidence and provides a dubious basis for the proposed regulations.
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1/25/14, Kudos to Carney for his Social Security loyalty, Bobbie Hemmerich, Lewes – Re 1/12/14 column by Representative John Carney, Social Security shouldn’t be used to balance budget. “It is disgraceful that some elected officials [the president] are even considering taking money [adopting the “chained index” mode of calculating future cost of living adjustments] from the Social Security trust Fund [which has no money to begin with] since it was created and established with the earnings of millions of people over many decades to help support their ‘golden years.’” While “I totally agree that the system needs ‘tweaking’ in order to strengthen it and keep it viable . . . it does NOT need wrong-thinking politicians attempting to steal from it to resolve problems that many of them helped to create.”  While not big fans of the chained CPI method, we don’t think Social Security benefits can be regarded as sacrosanct.  However, our letter to the editor has not been published to date.
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1/23/14, A10, In the First State, sustainable energy idea is working, Anthony J. DePrima (executive director of the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility) – Not only is the idea working, according to the writer, but it is doing so “beyond expectations.”  Kudos to the UD Center for Environmental and Energy Policy (for developing the idea), the Delaware legislature (for enacting enabling legislation in 2007), and “the dedicated leadership of Sen. Harris B. McDowell.”  Money comes from RGGI, bond issuance, service fees, interest on loans and tax-exempt financing.  Great way to put people to work, building energy saving projects, with policies that “favor responsible contracting and prevailing wages.”  One example was the 2011 tax-exempt efficiency bond series for public agencies that provided energy conservation measures for Department of Corrections, Budget Office, Dept. of Services, Delaware State University, and DelTech, which “will realize guaranteed energy savings close to $148 million over 20 years.”  We hope to continue this bond series into 2014.  And then there are lots of other programs, such as: rebates and low interest loans for homeowners who have an energy audit done and implement its recommendations; home purchase rebates for new homes that meet high standards of energy efficiency; revolving loan programs to encourage the implementation of end-user energy efficiency measures and customer-sited renewable generation; subsidies for energy assessments for nonprofits, governmental agencies & businesses; etc.  Look for two public workshops to enable stakeholder groups and the general public to participate in our 2014 strategic planning process.  The SEU game plan: (1) create a pool of money (by unnecessarily hiking electric power prices for the general public); and then (2) dole it out to selected targets as a means to buy political support.  Once such cozy arrangements get set up, it’s not easy to disable them.
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1/19/14, A25, Climate change’s effects are too critical to ignore, Ted Kaufman – The writer seizes on a talking point by former Vice President Dick Cheney in the months after 9/11 – to the effect that “if there’s even a 1 percent chance of a terrorist attack, we must prepare as if it were a certainty” – as supporting (by analogy) an all hands on deck response to the manmade global warming theory.  After all, “if every major national and international scientific organizations has passed resolutions saying its membership believes that global warming is a reality,” isn’t there at least a 1 percent chance that “the more alarming predictions about climate change are correct?”  So no need to change anyone’s mind, just get them to concede an offhand chance of catastrophic consequences if we don’t start spending money to prevent long-term global warming.  This argument, aka the precautionary principle, underestimates the cost and overestimates the efficacy of proposed responses to a problem that is largely based on speculation.  Granted that the recent cold snap in Delaware and much of the United States doesn’t prove very much, neither did some of the hot summers that were played up in news reports.  We are more impressed by the fact that the global cooling trend stopped about 15 years ago, confounding predictions of global warming alarmists, and by reports of a shift in solar activity that could lead to a Little Ice Age like the one that started in the 1600s. Daily Mail, 1/17/14, http://dailym.ai/1aerCtN If there is even a 1% chance that this is true, should we start spending big bucks to prevent global cooling?
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1/18/14, A1/A2, Data center plans clear major hurdle; Newark approves zoning for 237-megawatt power plant, Melissa Nann Burke – Newark approved the zoning permit for the data center/ power plant project, but with strict conditions (and follow-up reporting) to ensure that power produced by the plant may not at any time exceed 30% of the power needed to operate the data center. “I think the city was very careful,” says Nick Behringer, a consulting engineer for TDC.  “[The conditions] protects the city and the citizens from [the power plant] being anything other than an accessory use.”  Activist Amy Roe (also pictured on page 1) is quoted that “We are not going to give up.  We are considering every available option. ** Our movement is growing, and I’m encouraged by that.”  Among other things, Roe questions the logic of the 30% allowance that was given for excess power production (which would then be sold to DEMEC or Delmarva).  Grant of the zoning permit, hedged as it was, will result in DNREC starting work on the air permit that has been applied for.  The City of Newark is hiring an environmental consultant, as was previously reported, and it has shelled out some $134K in legal fees  to Connelly Gallagher re the zoning permit.  Seems like the city is posturing for the activists.  What would be the harm if there was more than 30% excess power, for example, since the low cost power could be sold for other uses? 
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1/17/14, A12, How smoking tobacco is like burning fossil fuels, A12, Chad Tolman (who served on the Delaware Sea-Level Advisory Commission) – The writer draws an analogy between burning fossil fuels and smoking, which “both produce toxic gases and particulates, along with carbon dioxide . . . are harmful to human health and welfare [“the number of people who die yearly from each is estimated to be 5 million or more”] . . are addictive and hard to give up” [citing President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union Address in which he supposedly said “Americans are addicted to oil” – the actual statement was couched in terms of ensuring “affordable energy”: “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.”]. In the case of fossil fuels, the purported harm is based on the manmade global warming theory, which has been supported by, among others, NASA’S Dr. James Hansen (since 1988), former Vice President Al Gore, many leading scientific societies, many economists and policy makers, etc.  To avoid “the most serious consequences,” it will be necessary to put “an increasing price on carbon – either through a cap-and-trade system such as that used by the northeastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states, including Delaware, or through a direct tax on carbon at its source.”  So “why have we made so little progress in addressing the dangers of climate change?”  One reason (no others are mentioned) is the efforts of “wealthy individuals and corporations (like the Koch Brothers and Exxon-Mobil), with a lot invested in fossil fuels, [who] have been waging a very effective public relations campaign attacking the integrity of climate scientists and denying that burning of fossil fuels causes climate change.”  See recent report by Dr. Robert Brulle of Drexel University for specifics. http://bit.ly/1d4imXr  And here in Delaware, we have the Caesar Rodney Institute, “which does everything it can to oppose efforts to reduce the burning of fossil fuels – most recently in the form of a legal challenge to DNREC’s authority under RGGI to reduce Delaware’s carbon emissions from power plants.”  Who funds CRI?  “I would like to know.  Wouldn’t you?” Mr. Tolman is certainly entitled to his beliefs, but his reliance on demonizing the opposition and questioning their motives is bad form.  There are plenty of real questions about the manmade global warming theory, starting with the fact that the global warming trend has stopped over the past 15+ years, forcing the alarmists to rebrand their campaign as against “climate change” rather than “global warming.”  Moreover, many experts with no apparent financial stake in the matter are skeptical of the manmade global warming theory including prominent scientists like Dr. Richard Lindzen of MIT (http://cbsloc.al/1ao2Amq) and nearly half of US meteorologists (http://onforb.es/1cAf0Y7). “Just 52 percent of survey respondents answered Yes: Mostly human. The other 48 percent either questioned whether global warming is happening or would not ascribe human activity as the primary cause.”
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1/16/14, B1/B2, A call to kill power plant; residents urge council to find zoning conflict, vow election response, Melissa Nann Burke & Esteban Parra – NJ continues to give high profile coverage to a “grass roots” campaign against the data center/ power plant project proposed for the UD Star Campus.  The latest news is a candlelight vigil outside the municipal building “urging the city to rule that a proposed data center project fails to meet the terms of Newark’s zoning code.”  More than 200 people were reportedly involved in a nearly hour-long demonstration.  Quoted: Jen Wallace & Amy Roe (who are said to be “concerned about the gas-fired power plant harming their health, property values and quality of life” and are threatening retribution against three council members in upcoming city elections if they don’t vote the right way), and one solitary supporter of the project (an out of work union member who is hoping for a job if the project goes ahead).  Although such opposition is certainly the right of the people concerned, we think that people with a different view – e.g., who want a healthy Delaware economy – have an obligation to support this project more openly than they seem to be doing.  Otherwise, it will get blocked and The Data Center will put the $1 billion facility somewhere else.
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1/14/14, Use wage hike, EITC to help Delawareans, Saul Hoffman (UD economist) – This column begins with a true statement: “The issue of whether to increase the minimum wage is in the news.”  And rightly so, according to the writer, “as low-wage workers have been largely left out of the economic progress of the past few decades, while income inequality has increased substantially.” He acknowledges that minimum wage increases were traditionally viewed as a mixed blessing, i.e., some workers got a pay increase but others might be out of a job.  More recent research has supposedly shown otherwise, e.g., a study that compared employment changes in places where the minimum wage was raised (NJ in 1992) to employment changes in places where it was not raised (PA).  “This analysis actually found that employment increased after the wage increased.”  Suggested conclusions: “modest increases in the minimum wage do not have negative effects on employment,” but that does not mean “we can raise the minimum wage higher and higher without adverse consequences” and “an increase of 20 percent to 25 percent is probably the upper limit.”  Therefore, let’s go with a “modest” increase in the minimum wage paired with tax incentives. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) “is a very successful federal program,” which benefits “families with low-to-moderate earnings.”  Given that “Republicans in Washington” are unlikely to agree with the minimum wage increase proposed by the president, action at the state level – say a 25% boost in the DE minimum wage over two years – would be a good thing.  Also liberalize the state EITC, which suffers from various deficiencies including the fact that (unlike federal EITC) it is not “refundable” and therefore cannot reduce DE income tax below zero.  The supposedly minor effects of the minimum wage on joblessness are belied by the much higher than the norm unemployment rates for teenagers seeking their first jobs, and those who think the unemployment situation is on the mend so employers won’t react to a minimum wage increase by cutting back on their hiring are not paying attention.  As for the EITC being “a very successful federal program,” that depends on what considers as the criteria for success.  Note that the EITC not only costs the US Treasury a great deal of money, but also creates widespread opportunities for fraud and encourages single-parent households, etc.
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1/14/14, B1/B2, Decision on plant soon; If zoning OK’d, environmental study next, Melissa Nann Burke – The Data Center’s request for a zoning permit for a data center/ power plant on the UD Star Campus has been pending since Nov. 1.  Now it is reported that a decision will be issued within 2 or 3 days, completing what Newark Mayor Polly Sierer describes as “a complex and difficult process.”  However, that’s not the end of the city approvals, as the City Council and staff “continue to have concerns about the environmental impacts of the proposal” and an independent consultant will he hired to evaluate the environmental impact of the proposed installation. Supposedly due to time constraints, the usual competitive-bidding process requirement for the environmental consultant (no name mentioned) will be waived.
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1/12/14, A19, Social Security shouldn’t be used to balance budget, Representative John Carney - “Over the past three years,” says the writer, “Congress’ solution to our budget crisis has been a temporary patchwork of fiscal bandages, passed at the stroke of midnight before critical deadlines.”  And “some have [even] proposed balancing our budget by cutting Social Security benefits.” That’s a bad idea, as “Social Security is a separate trust fund [that] doesn’t take money from the US Treasury.” But there is “a math problem,” as the Social Security Trust Fund “will run out of assets in 2033.”  So let’s create a bipartisan commission, as was done in 1983, to propose the necessary adjustments.  Carney’s preferred fix: drastically raise or even eliminate the cap on an individual’s income ($113,700 per year) that is subject to FICA tax.  Presumably for cosmetic purposes, he adds, the high earners who would be paying all the additional tax could “receive a corresponding increase in benefits.”  It would also be nice to sweeten the benefits for our most vulnerable seniors,” such as “Americans who work in minimum wage jobs, and those who are blessed to live longer than they expected.”  There are no easy ways to balance the budget, and no potential solution can be dismissed as “unacceptable” without consideration of how it stacks up against alternative solutions.  Thus, if Representative Carney does not want to cut Social Security benefits, what would he suggest cutting instead? The trust fund argument is highly misleading; there are no “assets” in the trust fund right now – never mind in 2033.  And it might have been worth mentioning that one reason Social Security has gone into the red earlier than had been projected is the failure to exercise proper control over grants of disability benefits for younger Americans who claim to be unable to work.
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1/9/14, B1/B2, Delaware’s climate: 10th year of warming; Temperatures above norm again in 2013, Jeff Montgomery – It’s not official yet, drum roll please, but “Delaware appears to have wrapped up its 10th straight warmer-than-average year in 2013.”  According to data from the National Climactic Data Center, Delaware’s annual [average?] temperature last year was “about 56.3 degrees, some 1.6 degrees higher than average for the last century.”  Don’t be fooled by recent low temperatures due to the pesky “polar vortex,” which will be reflected in the 2014 data.  Delaware State Climatologist Dan Leathers reportedly agrees that the “very preliminary results” point to an above-average year. In the past, Leathers has reported that “the state’s long-term temperature averages are increasing” and he “contributed details on the trend to a recent state report.”  Wilmington resident David Russo agrees too, saying “it has been getting warmer, and I’ve been noticing that there have been some summers where it’s also been very dry.”  John Holdren, the president’s science adviser, noted in a recently released video that “I believed the odds are that we can expect, as a result of global warming, to see more of this pattern of extreme cold in the mid latitudes and some extreme warm in the far north.”  Holdren also cautioned, however, that no single weather event can prove or disprove global warming.  Other sources cited include the New Jersey state climate office, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric records that supposedly “show the state’s average temperature trending upward for more than a century, with the rate of increase rated at 0.2 degrees per decade for the past 118 years, but rising to a much sharper 0.6 degrees per decade for the period from 1970 to the present.  And by the way, “2012 ranked as the hottest year on record both for the state and nationwide.”  (1) As far as the manmade global warming theory goes, only the global temperature trend – which leveled off about 15 years ago – is truly relevant.  (2) There have been reports of systematic NOAA tampering with the data, which reduces temperatures in earlier years and thereby changes the reported comparisons.  2013 will finish one of the ten coldest years in US history, Steven Goddard, wordpress.com, 12/20/13. http://bit.ly/1frWwN8  (3) Princeton physicist William Happer refutes claims that global warming is causing record cold: “Polar vortices have been around forever. They have almost nothing to do with more CO2 in the atmosphere.”  Climate Depot, 1/7/14. http://bit.ly/19giG6p
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1/9/14, A10, Obama’s grand misguided theory of social injustice, A10, Clive Crook (Bloomberg) – LBJ’s “war on poverty” theme 50 years ago tended to inspire and unite the country versus dividing it.  Today, while many of the president’s specific proposals are solid, it would be better if he “stressed opportunity, not inequality.” There is just so much one can do to increase social mobility, so alleviate poverty instead, e.g., by increasing the earned income tax credit.  And instead of pushing to raise tax rates on high earners, which could discourage effort, “attack loopholes that give the rich an unfair advantage.”  Notably, “the heavily lawyered plutocrats shield their assets from estate taxes when they die” and “unrealized capital gains are in effect wiped out for tax purposes” by raising the basis to the values at time of death.  SAFE’s SimpleTax proposal would eliminate the federal estate tax (ceding jurisdiction over this source of revenue to the states), the earned income tax credit (taxes should never be reduced below zero), and capital gains taxes (which result in double taxation of income) – in the interests of making the tax system fairer, more efficient, and a whole lot simpler. http://bit.ly/1gJc4xf
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1/3/14, B1/B2, Lawsuit challenges Delaware’s “cap and trade” restrictions, Jeff Montgomery – Plaintiffs: John Moore (CEO of Acorn Energy and a CRI Board Member), David Stevenson of CRI, State Rep. Harold “Jack” Peterman, and Christian Hudson (Hudson Management & Sam Yoderman & Sons).  Target: administrative action to reduce allowable CO2 emissions by the state’s largest power plants without the benefit of legislation. For background, see “Tighter caps may aid Del.,” 2/17/13.  The suit claims that DNREC violated the state’s constitution by usurping the legislative function, whereas DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara is quoted to the effect that the statute authorizing Delaware’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative also allows DNREC to adjust emissions caps – plus which the changes “were approved through a process that allowed for public review and participation.” DNREC’s public hearings tend to be rather formalistic, with the outcome basically predetermined. The story includes the usual boilerplate about the manmade global warming theory, while not mentioning that average global temperatures have not been rising over the past 15+ years.
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