Montco fault lines

Is that bipartisan harmony breaking out in Montgomery County with this week's power-sharing deal between Republican Commissioner Jim Matthews and Democratic Commissioner Joe Hoeffel? Or is it the upshot of a male cat fight among three big egos?

Matthews, the new commission chair, says he's following voters' wishes in helping Hoeffel become vice chair - thus freezing out fellow Republican Bruce Castor. After all, Democrats won five other key county offices in November.

But if this was about what voters wanted, shouldn't Castor be the chair since he was the top vote-getter among the commission candidates?

This appears to be more about the long-running, self-destructive family feud among county Republicans.

The winner: Hoeffel, who adroitly exploited the GOP's divisions.

The loser: Anyone who expects Castor to quietly play along.

The question: Can the trio rise above politics and personalities in conducting the people's business?

Preservation costs

Philadelphia preservationists won a welcome reprieve on Tuesday for two historic North Broad Street buildings. But don't be surprised to hear more talk from the Rendell administration about how this delay will boost costs for the $700 million expansion of the Convention Center.

Well, Gov. Rendell and his aides could've avoided any delay by sparing the buildings, as originally pledged by the state-run Convention Center. Under a preservation agreement, the facades were to be incorporated into the expansion plans.

Now, the prospect of a full-blown trial in state court to determine whether the building facades are preserved means more lost time and money. Now is the time for Rendell to order the state to adhere to the original pledge. He could preserve an important piece of the city's historic fabric, and make amends for the apparent double-dealing surrounding the buildings' fate.

Nutter's momentum

The line of people circling City Hall yesterday waiting for up to several hours to meet the new mayor, Michael Nutter, was a powerful sight to behold, especially in a gritty old town not known for being warm and fuzzy.

Mayor Nutter's refreshing message of a fair and open government for the people and by the people has lifted the city's spirits.

Nutter has laid out big goals and asked for everyone's help. For one day at least, people came by the thousands.

The trick is to build on the momentum. If Nutter can do that, the lines of people willing to pitch in could keep growing.

Threatened bears

By mid-century, government scientists forecast that Alaska's entire population of polar bears will be killed off due to sea ice thinned by global warming. Given that dire warning, there's not a moment to lose by the federal government in protecting the bears as a threatened species. But instead, the Bush administration is fiddling while Alaska melts.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne's staff this week delayed listing the bears under the Endangered Species Act.

Meanwhile, another wing of Interior - the Minerals Management Service - just unveiled plans to open up nearly 30 million acres of Alaskan waters to oil and gas leasing in the heart of polar bear country.

Conservation groups shouldn't have to go to the expense of filing a threatened lawsuit to force Bush officials to do what's right and protect these magnificent animals.

National Mall makeover

The National Mall - the nation's front yard - is overdue for a costly face-lift. The master plan for the makeover is being finalized, while the heavily private fund-raising effort for the $350 million project is moving ahead.

Citizens have until Tuesday to comment on the various plans. To speak now visit:

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