PUNXSUTAWNEY Phil, the weather-forecasting groundhog, will emerge from his burrow on Tuesday and tell us whether we will have six more weeks of winter (we are guessing yes). But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it's unfair to keep a groundhog captive and make it face the bright lights and large crowds that attend the spectacle every year at Gobbler's Knob. They want a robotic stand-in to be used instead. To be sure, being seized at dawn by strange men in top hats and asked to make meteorological predictions is likely to be disconcerting. But it sells any self-respecting groundhog short to suggest that a robot woodchuck could chuck predictions if a robot woodchuck could. Besides, it's only a once a year gig even if it seems like Groundhog Day comes every day. Speaking for the men in top hats, an official said Phil is "being treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania" -- which is either encouraging news concerning captive groundhogs or a bleak assessment of the state's children. The same official said PETA is just looking for publicity. You think?
THE DAVID L. LAWRENCE Convention Center is no Gobbler's Knob, but there's an on-again, off-again Groundhog Day quality to the old quest to build a hotel nearby that would provide a convenient burrow for visiting convention attendees. It has been off again lately, with the 6-year-old plan by Forest City Enterprises to build a 500-room headquarters hotel next to the convention center stalled by funding problems. The $34 million in state funds designated to support the project recently were moved to other economic initiatives. Despite that, now it may be on again. Amazing Hospitality Group, a hotel management and consulting firm, says it is working with a Chicago developer on a minimum 400-room project aimed at addressing a "citywide need for a convention center hotel." Local officials believe the lack of a hotel near the convention center has been a major deterrent to attracting more business. If the project moves forward, it could herald a new spring of prosperity. Better that than six more years of economic chill.