COULD THE GIANT inflatable rat, a common prop at organized-labor protests, go extinct, replaced by a louder, more mobile rodent?
Let's test-drive the Rat-Mobile, a new model from that old school of labor protests, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Currently being test-driven around the city and soon to be deployed to protests, the Rat-Mobile is a converted minivan. John Dougherty, the union's business manager, said the conversion cost $14,000 and took three months.
The work was done by a union official and his family. Dougherty hopes the idea catches on with other unions. Who knows? It could become a job creator.
The Rat-Mobile certainly draws attention, with its long snout, bushy whiskers and an open mouth of sharp teeth hanging over two front feet with daggerlike claws. Red eyes and pink ears, which double as a speaker system, sit up top.
One of the sound tracks already programmed is a take on the familiar boardwalk warning in Wildwood: "Watch the tram car please." In this case, it says: "Watch the rat car, please."
No, really. That's what it says.
Speaking of the Shore, Dougherty plans to have the Rat-Mobile follow employers at odds with his union to their beach houses.
"This summer, this rat car will be on the way to Cape May, Wildwood and Ocean City, wherever some fat cats are who abuse workers," Dougherty said. "When the rat car shows up, you will know you have a problem."
One developer Dougherty plans to target: Post Brothers Apartments, which has faced labor strife for using nonunion employees on projects in the city.
Michael Pestronk, CEO of that company, said it has "very good relationships" with most of the unions in the building trades, with the exception of Local 98.
"We are used to being threatened with physical violence by guys standing in front of our homes," Pestronk said when told about the Rat-Mobile. "A new minivan doesn't sound like it will be a big deal."
About that 'dark horse'
Dana Spain, former owner of Philadelphia Style Magazine, was pitched this week in an attention-grabbing 1,960-word Philly.com column by John Featherman as a "dark-horse candidate" who is "aggressively coming out of the gate" with her interest in being the Republican Party's nominee for mayor in 2015.
Featherman yesterday said he forgot to ask a crucial question: Is Spain a Republican?
"I'm very upset because I feel taken," Featherman said after receiving several phone calls from people telling him Spain is a registered Democrat. "I didn't do my due diligence."
The Philly.com column drew even more eyes when it was a top link on DrudgeReport.com.
Spain, who said the sudden attention was "extraordinary," has been a registered Democrat since April 2002. That's when she joined an effort by Ed Rendell's campaign for governor to recruit moderate Republicans and independents to help him defeat Bob Casey Jr. in the primary election.
Before that, Spain said, she was a Republican in college and then registered as an independent.
Spain said she remained a Democrat to vote in primary elections, since that party controls so many of the city's elected offices.
"Once I decide if I'm running at all or as a Republican, that registration will change," she said.
Featherman has terrible luck with Democratic women. He was the first candidate to enter the 2011 Republican primary for mayor. Party leaders recruited Karen Brown, then a Democratic committeewoman running for City Council, to challenge him.
She beat him by 64 votes.
A Clout update
We told you last week that state Rep. John Taylor might be called up for a vote as the new chairman of the Republican City Committee on Tuesday if the current chairman, Vito Canuso, stepped down. That didn't happen.
Canuso said his party continues to have "good discussions" about closing the long-running rift between the party's longtime leaders and younger members who want to make the GOP more competitive in city elections.
Quotable vs. Quotable
"No, I was emoting to the Twitterverse at Large on the outcome of the game." - City Councilman Jim Kenney, a/k/a @JimFKenney, Wednesday night when the West Philly Turkey, a/k/a @WPhillyTurkey, tweeted that Kenney was tweeting comments about his own tweets about a hockey game.
"You are now arguing w/ a turkey and losing." - The West Philly Turkey, which was profiled in a front-page story by Stephanie Farr in yesterday's Daily News.
On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN