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on June 19, 2012
Today our two political camps are facing each other over a battlefield, over the issue of government. There are so many Rs ready and willing to destroy government, rather than make it effective and worthy of respect. Ed Rendell, former Mayor of Philadelphia and Governor of Pennsylvania, has demonstrated...well chronicled in his book...how one man can negotiate with unions; increase efficiencies; empower highly competent people to help him turn the narrative into a productive one for all citizens. In a real sense, Rendell respects the dignity of all the people in their common desire for good government. He did the job of fixing budgets, and realigning and streamlining government structure so it becomes effective and smart...and most of all something about which citizens can be proud.

This is a Democratic example of how to do make it happen. There are, and will be Republican examples as well. I won't hold my breath for any new era of bi-partisanship, but it's well to note for any R readers, that Sean Hannity was able to give this book a strong endorsement, but more importantly, an endorsement to Rendell's fiscal policy successes in Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

But before any such hopes can germinate, according to Rendell, it's necessary to get off the self-destructive idea that government itself is evil, when it's often just incompetent, unimaginative, and suffering from lack of true leadership. Once this corner is turned, then Rendell's example of mustering the courage to achieve great things...what too many assume simply can't be done...CAN be made to happen.

Ed Rendell is an example of what's needed all over America: honest and forthright public servants, who believe in the proper role of government and truly want to make it succeed. This book us filled with the unadulterated hard facts of how Rendell operated so successfully, covering the people, places, and dates, and humorous anecdotes, with openness, and even joy. It's lively, hopeful, and a good read to boot.
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on August 10, 2012
If you are looking for a book that takes an academic perspective on local,state and national politics, this is not it. If you want to read about a career in politics at all three levels of government, you will enjoy this book. Rendell offers his personal insights into the mechanics of getting things done in a political world. He offers anecdotal examples of what worked for him and why those ideas can work for other politicians. This book does not pretend to be anything more than one man's take on what is lacking in political leadership today and what he believes can be done to make things better for America.
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on July 14, 2012
As I said, former Gov. Ed Rendell and I do not agree on everything but we do look at most things in a forthright and unabashed manner. Regardless of your politics, this is an entertaining and thought-provoking read that I recommend to anybody who enjoys political discussion.
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on November 11, 2012
In war, the people with the guts are the ones actually charging the enemy machine gun nest, not the general sitting behind a desk that orders the attack. Ed Rendell sometimes forgets that when describing various times he thinks he was gutsy. One of the stories he tells in order to demonstrate that he is not a wuss is when he forced the public unions to take benefit cuts in order to cut costs when he was mayor. Now if this took place fifty years ago when unions were very strong, that might mean something. But in today's world when so many political leaders attack unions, Ed is just part of the crowd. Cutting other people's wages may not be easy, but like the general that sends other people into battle, it hardly takes guts. Now if he wrote about cutting his own salary and benefits, that might be different. But he suffers no personal sacrifice, so what is it about this episode that is so gutsy? Other chapters bring back that same question over and over. By the end, we know Ed Rendell is just another self-promoting politician and a full-fledged citizen of Wuss Nation. Read the book, but look elsewhere for a politician who really has guts. For example, the Keller, Texas city manager who had to cut costs and so decided to lay himself off. Now that guy was no wuss!
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on June 7, 2012
Quick and great read! We are becoming a nation of wusses and the Gov isn't afraid to call us all out on it. Takes on the NFL, NRA, and politicians all over the country. Makes me think about politicians and their goals in office in a new light. Fun stories, straight taking, and my favorite -- a top 10 list.
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on September 27, 2012
I expected more examples of how we have become a nation of wusses. Most of the books seems to be the author bragging about his accomplishments. This was purchased after seeing an interview with him on TV. I think he could have cut out some of his self-promotion and focused more on how we have become a nation of wusses and how we can overcome it.
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on November 10, 2014
I'm from a different political persuasion than the governor, but I like him. Ed Rendell is often called Slick Eddy by his opponents and he is a politician of the craftiest order, but if I were forming a government, I would want him as part of my team. He knows his job and doesn't often hide the agenda. This is a fun book that tells it from his perspective. Having lived through this era from just outside Philadelphia it's easy to spot when and where we interpret the facts differently. But whether you have listened to him as D.A., or mayor, governor or Eagles TV analyst, you know he is enjoying himself and has learned when not to take himself too seriously. For the political junkie or novice political science student, this is an enjoyable teaching history of a Democrat who has seen it all, and lived it too.
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on July 11, 2014
This is a great autobiography of a notable Pennsylvania Governor. Readers who enjoy political biographies or recent Pennsylvania history will enjoy this book.

The following are notes from this book for Political Science students:

Ed Rendell began his political involvement putting up “Stevenson for Presient” signs when he was eight years old. He has grown to believe that government exists to serve the people. He is upset by people who sees government “as the enemy”. That view he believes, is dividing the country and increasing hatred. What people should do is fight for effective government for, as Rendell notes, “you can’t be effective if you’re a wuss.”

Rendell worked as an Assistant District Attorney, rising to Chief of the Homicide Unit, under District Attorney Arlen Specter. Specter “made us believe that our office of 65 attorney and fewer than 200 people were the sole guardians who kept Philadelphia from falling through the gates of hell.” When Emmett Fitzpatrick defeated Specter, Fitzpatrick asked if Rendell would be willing to back away from his “hard line approach” and to use more plea bargains. Rendell refused and resigned, going into private practice.

Governor Milton Shapp asked Rendell to serve as Deputy Special Prosecutor under Bernie Segal to investigate political and police corruption. Fitzpatrick refused to investigate public wrongdoings. The legislature, some of whom where under investigation by this body, cut its funding.

Rendell ran against Fitzpatrick, He campaigned all day including campaigning at night in bars. Rendell had trouble raising funds. He borrowed $10000 for billboards around the city. He won the primary and then the election.

Rendell ran for Governor in 1986. He lost the Democratic Primary to Bob Casey by 56% to 44%. He admits that Casey “was the right man at the righ time and he went on to e a fine Governor.”

Rendell ran for Mayor in 1987 against incumbent W. Wilson Goode. He reflects that this was a “terrible decision” because “my heart wasn’t in it” and “Wilson Goode was a very decent man.” Goode defeated Rendell in the primary and won reelection.

Rendell ran for Mayor in 1991 and was elected.

As Mayor, he agreed to let Buzz Bissinger to be with him at every meeting while he wrote his book “A Prayer for the City”.

As Mayor, he cut waste, renegotiated lease agreements for less rent, closed two trash transfer stations, hired civilians in non-uniformed Police Department positions instead of using higher paid police officers, improved efficiencies and streamlines some government functions, oversaw insurance agreements and obtained lower costs, and improved technology services.

Few city employees were laid off. If jobs switched to a private contractor, he saw to it that city employees were hired. He gave preference to awarding contracts to unionized contractors.

As Mayor, Rendell improved tax collections, gaining $75 million in the first two years and $50 million afterwards by giving overdue tax files to collection agencies or attorney who then kept 18% of what they collected.

Rendell noted that in 1992 Philadelphia city government paid 56 cents in benefits for every dollar in salary compared to 24 cents of benefits for every dollar in salary in the private sector, He sought employee contributions towards their health care benefits.

Rendell was reelected Mayor in 1993 receiving 85% of the vote.

Rendell ran for Governor. He notes he was still a political outsider as 51 of Philadelphia’s 67 ward leaders supported Bob Casey, Jr. As Rendell is pro-choice and Casey is pro-life, he sent a letter with a voter registration change of party form to get proc-choice Republicans to switch to vote for him in the Democratic Primary. This helped him win the primary by 56% to 44% for Casey. Rendell then defeated Mike Fisher in the general election.

As Governor, Rendell sought to limit handgun purchases to one per month. The NRA lobbied hard to stop this.

Rendell increased programs for education including kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. This, though, led to a nine month budget deadlock with the Republican majority legislature yet he is glad he won many gains for children.

Governor Rendell increased investments in economic development and in infrastructure. He invested in green energy jobs, His programs helped move Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate to two percentage points below the national average.

When a federal regulatory commission ordered Philadelphia city government to build a water treatment plant to improve oxygen content for fish, Rendell observed that the fish were not dying He stated he “won’t comply and if the judge winds up putting me in jail for contempt I will end up being the mayor who went to jail for refusing to spend $125 million of his taxpayers money to build a third treatment plant to make fish more comfortable.” The plant was not built.

As Governor, he learned how to give and take with his Republican majority legislature. He achieved some of his education program goals while allowing Republicans to obtain an accountability bloc grant program they favored that gave local school districts more say in how they spent their funds.

Governor Rendell sought a $2.3 billion economic stimulus plan financed by bonds. Many Republican legislators, knowing tax exempt non-profits did not benefit from bond being tax exempt, urged that they receive upfront financing for construction improvements. Many Republicans legislators wanted to create a Commonwealth Financing Authority that could politicized some projects. Rendell opposed the authority yet knew if he did not accept the authority the entire package was dead. He knew when to fold and he agreed to a compromise that included the authority.

Rendell believes the nation needs to improve its infrastructure. It needs to do this before further deterioration escalates costs. American ports are falling behind ports in other countries. He seeks improving our freight rails to move freight off of congested roads and to reduce vehicular carbon dioxide emissions.

Rendelll views politicians who sign pledges not to raise taxes as not considering the consequences. He sees them as he real political “wusses”.

Rendell believes legislatures were “wusses” when they refused to back his play for a 2.5% surcharge on Blue Cross and Blue Shield health care plan premiums in order to pay for specialist physicians’ insurance premiums. He notes Blue Cross and Blue don’t pay state taxes. He believes legislators gave into special interest lobbyists. Forced to find revenues from someplace, the legislature enacted a 25 cent per pack tax on cigarettes.

The legislature also refused to add a $6 annual surcharge on electric bill to pay for alternative energy services. The Commonwealth thus had to pay,

Rendell believes government can create jobs by decreasing business taxes, workers’ compensation costs, and health care costs as well as creating predictable regulatory programs

Rendell states politicians who are “wusses” are those who don’t give credit to a rival, won’t admit a mistake, won’t answer media questions, are unable to disagree with their base voters, won’t debate, won’t stand behind their positions, won’t speak to protestors, often change positions just to win votes, distance themselves from troubled alies, take credit for something they didn’t did do or even did the opposite,

Rendell recommends allowed absentee voting at political party caucuses, electing the President by popular voe, and limiting he impact of issue advocacy groups.
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on June 11, 2014
This book was of double interest to me being that I'm a Philly guy and I lean Democratic. Hearing about Ed Rendell's early career in Philadelphia and recalling the events he describes as landmarks growing up added some interest.

Now of course this book is by Ed Rendell about Ed Rendell so there is very little about what he may have done wrong, but there is at least enough self-deprecating humor to keep the book from non-stop self-congratulation. There's a little of that here, but he does a decent job of explaining his point of view rather than just saying what he wanted.

The most impressive part of Rendell's political approach is his willingness to engage those he disagrees with. He really seems to enjoy the activities of negotiation and debate. He also operates with the understanding that democracy's design flaw is you rarely get everything you want. It's a much more intelligent and productive approach than the "No comprise," childishness of today's political extremists.

Another of my favorite Rendell comments is his counter to the small-government fools. He's right when he says that government done right can make a huge and positive difference in people’s lives. At times I felt like that's partly what the book was for, as a reminder that there are exceptions to the stereotype of sleazeball politicians. There are people like Rendell, genuinely working hard to iron out the boring legal and financial details of things so the rest of us can have decent society in which to live.

It makes me feel better knowing that there are people like Ed Rendell handling the boring but important stuff. I don't agree with him on everything, but I don't agree with anyone on everything. This is a good quick read, perhaps a little light if you're looking for details, but still a good reminder that if your intentions are sincere, you work hard and you don't fear criticism, you will increase your chances of success in whatever you do.

Larry Nocella
Author of the novel, The Katrina Contract, available on Amazon
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on February 9, 2014
You don't find those words used together very often anymore. Governor Ed Rendell reminds us that the Can-Do Spirit of America doesn't have to be a bygone relic of nostalgia, but can be a beacon of hope guiding us to a better future. We have to be pragmatic, tough-minded, and willing to work together if we're going to get anywhere.

Rendell pulls from his own experiences to show why it's better to be true to your heart, and never take the easy way out... which has--in our current climate--become the path of least resistance, and the way of the Wuss. The former Governor, Mayor, and District Attorney does this in a tone that is conversational, but clearly informed by a deep knowledge of issues and policy.

Guts and Gumption are what it takes. We dig deep enough and we find the resolve and the courage, we can get America back on track and a few more miles down the road to greatness.
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