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Karen Heller: Rendell's legacy: A two-term blooper show

To conduct a massive research "legacy project" demonstrating how his policies have helped the lives of ordinary people, Gov. Rendell has hired Philadelphia public relations honcho and former mouthpiece Kevin Feeley for $30,000.

To conduct a massive research "legacy project" demonstrating how his policies have helped the lives of ordinary people, Gov. Rendell has hired Philadelphia public relations honcho and former mouthpiece Kevin Feeley for $30,000.

A steal! The governor's helped us ordinary people immeasurably, giving us nearly eight years of nonstop entertainment.

We ordinary people initially, and unwittingly, funded the Ed legacy project - dare I call it the lEdgacy - with our donations, otherwise known as taxes.

Among other objectives, the research will be used as a battering ram to pass the governor's agenda in the current budget. Republicans, you will be shocked to learn, were not amused.

The governor says he was unaware, until The Inquirer's Angela Couloumbis broke the story. The deal was put together by staffers "in an overly zealous mood," Rendell suggested. "On a few matters - not on very many, but on a few matters - I have better judgment than my staff." Rendell is now funding the report through his $2.3 million campaign fund.

When we think of EdLegPro, there's so much to celebrate, beginning with the budget process, or pronounced lack thereof.

Here we are preparing to go through the eighth - of eight! - mind-numbing, energy-draining, tax-depleting budget impasses of the Rendellian era, the World Cup of state legislative meltdowns.

Last year's follies lasted 101 days, though nothing compares to the ignominious nine-month conflict of 2003 during which, as I've noted before, babies were conceived and born.

Rendell has made notable strides in education, energy, social services, and the environment. He's been a true friend to Philadelphia. He exhibits many skills, but diplomacy is not among them. His is a personality so large, it eats the room.

Leaving Harrisburg a bigger multicar pileup of inaction than he found it takes skill. Rendell and the recalcitrant, Republican-controlled Senate have diametrically opposite views of the role of government, but the governor has done little to broker peace.

The capital is a more dispirited place, and public confidence is shattered, yet there are not enough reformers to overhaul the broken culture. Rendell made few buddies in the Democratic General Assembly either, sometimes at the peril of his ambitious agenda.

If he hasn't accomplished getting his entire agenda passed, he certainly succeeded at shooting off his mouth at anyone who got in his way.

Last summer, he suggested gassing a legislative conference committee - mind you, he was speaking at a library in front of children. In Goldfinger, he said, the James Bond villain "just filled the room with poison gas and knocked them all off. You might have thought after watching those two [conference committee] days that that would have been a good idea."

Another legacy has been taxes. Rarely one to resist raising them, he offered another smackdown of the legislature: "They're cowards. I wish I could tell you how difficult it is getting them to do anything," he said in 2004. "If tomorrow we could cure cancer if they raised taxes, they wouldn't raise them."

The Slot King gave us gambling, enriching state coffers and casino operators from the depleted accounts of people too poor for Vegas. The reasoning, Rendell suggested, is that gambling brings "brightness and cheer" to senior citizens who "lead very gray lives." He was here to help! "If you put them on the bus they're excited. They're happy. They have fun. They see bright lights. They hear music. They pull that slot machine and with each pull they think they have a chance to win," think being the operative verb.

When one questioned him about approving the legislature's middle-of-the-night 2005 pay raise, he expanded on his love for seniors: "My thought was to grab her around the neck and throttle her." Talk about leading a very gray life.

After his approval rating dropped precipitously last year, Rendell said, "I don't care if I get down to 10 percent. I'm still clobbering the legislature." Yes, though nothing to brag about when only three out of 10 voters think you're doing a good job.

True, he hasn't made government smaller, but he's had more success with himself, shedding 40 pounds, through diet and regular exercise.

This belies his boast that he has no life, after making the same comment about then Secretary of Homeland Security-designate Janet Napolitano. "What I meant is that Janet is a person who works 24/7, just like I do. She has no life; neither do I," despite the fact that Rendell regularly hosts Comcast SportsNet Eagles Pregame and Postgame Live, attends other sporting events, parties, dines out, and cultivates a perpetual tan at the Lombard Swim Club.

With Rendell's big personality and bigger mouth, Kevin Feeley has his work cut out for him. That $30,000 fee might turn out to be a steal.