OK, KIDS, TIME FOR my annual

mea culpa

column in which I 'fess up to errors in judgment, plain mistakes or lack of insight.

I write this in the belief that those with a public voice are every bit as accountable as those in public office. So here goes.

* In columns about the U.S. Senate primary between Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak, I underestimated the political tenacity and prowess of the latter and overestimated the value of experience and incumbency of the former.

Specter, for all his clout, for all his ability to work the system for his city and state, came across as too self-serving and I, because I see all pols as self-serving, failed to see it as fatal to his re-election.

Sestak benefited from a terrific in-Specter's-own-words ad from Neil Oxman and the Campaign Group, but I should have seen it coming.

* In a February column about long-serving Philly lawmakers and the amount of union money they collect, I incorrectly said state Rep. Dwight Evans was among those elected in the 1970s.

Evans was elected in 1980. City legislators elected in the '70s were Reps. Mark Cohen, John Perzel and Frank Oliver.

No excuse; my mistake.

* In a March column related to the Harrisburg corruption trial of former state House Democratic Whip Mike Veon, I misidentified Judge Richard Lewis as Dauphin County's president judge.

He had been president judge and the county website still listed him as such, but his term expired with the start of the year and I should have double-checked instead of relying on memory and a website.

Lesson learned.

* In a May column about Gov. Rendell's address to the Legislature calling for massive, new transportation funding, I goofed on an issue of road mileage.

In his speech, the Guv said the state has 7,000 miles of bad roads and an additional 10,000 miles of roads with regular resurfacing behind schedule. He said this was enough miles to criss-cross the country three times.

I figured he was talking about the 10,000, not the 7,000. I was wrong.

With clever use of a U.S. map, you can go coast-to-coast three times on 7,000 miles: Jacksonville, Fla., to San Diego is 2,092.

I should have been as clever.

* In a June column about the huge buzz created by a Philadelphia mag piece, with photo, "The Governor, the Blonde and the Rumor Mill," I tagged His Edness for complaining about media coverage of his habit of being seen in public with attractive women who are not his wife. I thought it a fair shot since this is Ed's self-developed habit, and one of some duration.

In retrospect and in fuller fairness, I should have mentioned that Ed's wife, Midge, is a federal judge and therefore barred from attending public political events. It would not have diminished my point, only rounded it out.

Two silly mistakes were in columns in August and September.

* In August, I decried Pennsylvania's need for 501 school districts while I meant to decry Pennsylvania's need for 500 school districts. In September, I wrote that Marcellus, N.Y. (namesake of our state's shale-o-mania) is "east" of Syracuse. It's west of Syracuse.

I don't know. A mini-attack of dyslexia?

* But the year's most embarrassing flub was mixing the names of two directors at the Maryland-based election-reform group FairVote.

I interviewed both Toby Rowe and Rob Richie for a column on making voting more voter-friendly but ended up attributing a quote to "Toby Richie."

Both seemed to take it well. I felt terrible.

I hate mistakes. Readers don't deserve them, and I pledge (again) to make this column shorter next year - while striving to make it unnecessary.

Send e-mail to baerj@phillynews.com.

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