Monday, April 30, 2007

Ed Rendell's Welfare State

Welcome to Pennsylvania, the land of the neverending crisis.

We've heard a lot about the property tax crisis and the transportation crisis and the pension crisis and the health care crisis and the school funding crisis since Gov. Ed Rendell took office in 2003.

Now we're starting to learn about the welfare crisis during the Rendell administration.

Unlike most states, where welfare recipients are steered off government assistance into private-sector jobs, Pennsylvania has been adding people to welfare at an alarming rate.

Since Rendell became governor, Pennsylvania's welfare rolls have swelled by more than 350,000.

"Under Rendell, 360,000 new people were added to the welfare rolls in his first four years alone at a cost of nearly $3 billion in state taxpayer dollars," said state Rep. Mike Turzai, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. "This has to stop, whether Rendell, his welfare secretary, or his top aides want it to or not. The age of Rendell’s welfare free-for-all have come to an end."

Turzai's committee has held four public hearings so far on welfare reform.

Two former state officials testified Monday about procedural changes to the Department of Public Welfare under the Rendell administration that have led to abuses of the system and a lower rate of fraud investigations.

Mike Hayes is the former operations manager of the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Becky Hayes is the former central region's investigations manager for the Office of Inspector General.

"What (our) committee has uncovered is that the Rendell administration has turned a blind eye to fraud and abuse within our state welfare programs," Turzai said. "(The Rendell administration has) allowed millions in taxpayer dollars to be taken by those who abuse the system. "

Prior to 2003, welfare caseworkers worked hand-in-hand with the OIG field investigators, Turzai said in a press release. Under this collaborative effort, the caseworkers and the investigators had direct access to one another, where the caseworker could directly make an investigation referral to the OIG. In an effort to cut down on the amount of fraud, the OIG would make sure that welfare applicants provided accurate information through Application Verification Investigations (AVIs).

Mike Hayes told the committee that at the height of the AVI program, the investigators received close to 40,000 referrals a year; however in 2003 they began to see a decline to approximately half of that number. Hayes also noted that Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman let it be known that she did not support the AVI program, stating that she would rather see people who committed fraud get on the system, rather than deny one welfare mother benefits.

The OIG deals exclusively with welfare fraud investigations, while the DPW handles all application procedures, according to Turzai. Procedural changes implemented after Rendell took office, changed the system so that the caseworkers no longer had one-on-one interaction with the investigators. The change added more bureaucracy to the system, making it so that all referrals had to be approved by a supervisor or office manager before the inspectors could be notified.

Becky Hayes described how this change in policy drastically reduced the amount of investigated fraud referrals. In York County, the OIG staff, which included 2 investigators, looked into an average of 90–105 referrals a month before 2003. At this point in time, the staff was overwhelmed with the number of caseloads, at one point requiring a third investigator.

After several months she saw a decline in the number of referrals, to the point that when she left the OIG in 2005 there were some months when the monthly referral rate dropped to one or two, sometimes even having months with no case referrals at all. If the investigators did not receive a referral, they couldn’t put applicants through the AVI program.

Becky Hayes also commented on the department slogan "close your eyes and authorize."

She told the committee that under this campaign, as soon as applicants walked through the door, they could get whatever benefits they wanted.

"In my personal opinion, I don't believe there was the same level of concern (from the Rendell administration compared to former administrations) to address the integrity of the program,” Becky Hayes said. "I loved my job, I really didn’t want to retire, but my level of frustration at not being able to do anything (about the fraud cases) got to be too much."

You know what Rendell's response is to the charge that he's allowed welfare rolls to swell over the past four years: Republican are picking on poor people.

But what about the taxpayers of Pennsylvania? Don't they deserve a break? And how can a state without population growth add so many people to welfare. After all, Rendell touts his job growth numbers on a daily basis. If he's brought so many new jobs to Pennsylvania, why are so many people on welfare?

"We want the truly needy and deserving to get the help they need, but at the same time we need to root out fraud and abuse," Turzai said.

Less than four months into Rendell's second term, we've seen how inept his top administrators are in the handling of the Interstate 78 fiasco, where hundreds of motorists were stranded on a highway for 24 hours.

And now we have the State Ethics Commission looking into how two top Rendell aides gave more than $4 million in grants to groups that employ their spouses.

We also learned this year that the state is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall despite Rendell's assurances last year that he balanced the budget.

Broken promises on tax relief, inept government, massive spending and top Rendell aides who are ethically challenged. That's the Rendell legacy in a nutshell.

Can we redo the November 2006 election?

Mercury staffers win Pa. newspaper awards

Most people are surprised to learn that I have a day job. I work for newspaper. My primary responsibility is getting a newspaper out each day. That includes finding stories, assigning them to reporters and editing the finished copy. It also involves laying out the pages.

Writing columns is something I do in my spare time, although it has brought me a following across Pennsylvania in the past couple of years.

While I appreciate the recognition I've received for my columns, I'm especially proud of the job the staff of The Mercury does producing a newspaper seven days a week, 365-days-a-year.

Here's some news well-deserved recognition for the staff of The Mercury:

The Mercury coverage of Schuylkill River flooding last summer recently garnered two news coverage awards, honoring staff writers for their comprehensive reporting of water damage and cleanup in the area.

Staff writers Evan Brandt, Sarah Fleener, Carl Hessler Jr., Michelle Karas and Brandie Kessler and intern Lindsay Moyer won a first-place Keystone Press Award for ongoing news coverage.

The Keystone awards are the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association's annual contest for newspapers throughout the state.

The same group of writers also won a third place for flood stories in the enterprise reporting category of the Keystone Society of Professional Journalists Spotlight contest.

The staff previously won a Suburban Newspaper Association award for the same group of stories.

The flood coverage awards were for news stories printed June 28 to July 7 detailing the damage, water rescues, and community cleanup effort that followed the flooding of the river, which crested at 21 feet, the highest level since Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Mercury sports editor Don Seeley also won a first-place Keystone Press Award in the category of sports beat reporting. Seeley won for his extensive coverage of high school football in 2006.

Included in the entry were game stories, previews, player features and the year-end package of statistics compiled by Seeley.

In the SPJ Spotlight contest, Charles H. Pitchford won a third-place award for page design. Pitchford, who is The Mercury's Sunday editor, won for a Sunday Entertainment page design, “Finding Gold.”

City editor Tony Phyrillas also won a third-place award in the Spotlight contest for commentary in a daily newspaper. The entry included three columns written by Phyrillas for The Mercury's Opinion page during 2006.

This was the third time Phyrillas was recognized for column writing in the past year. He received a first-place award from Suburban Newspapers of America and a second-place citation from the Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Philadelphia Chapter.

The awards for the Keystone and Spotlight contests will be presented May 19 at ceremonies in Harrisburg.

5% of school districts reject Act 1

Here's the latest from David Baldinger of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition on the effort to repeal Act 1.

"We've reached a milestone of sorts - 5% of Pennsylvania school districts have now passed the Act 1 resolution with the addition of Marion Center SD in Indiana County and Old Forge SD in Lackawanna County."

Here's the list:

Act 1 Resolution Schools

1) Antietam (Berks)

2) Armstrong (Armstrong)

3) Athens (Bradford)

4) Boyertown (Berks/Montgomery)

5) Brandywine Heights (Berks)

6) Bristol Township (Bucks)

7) Canton (Bradford/Lycoming/Tioga)

8) Catasauqua (Lehigh/Northampton)

9) Centennial (Bucks)

10) Central Bucks (Bucks) (largest district in the state subject to Act 1 provisions)

11) Coatesville (Chester)

12) Conrad Weiser (Berks)

13) Daniel Boone (Berks)

14) Exeter (Berks)

15) Governor Mifflin (Berks)

16) Marion Center (Indiana)

17) Old Forge (Lackawanna)

18) Palmyra (Lebanon)

19) Pennsbury (Bucks)

20) South Williamsport (Lycoming)

21) Tunkhannock (Wyoming)

22) William Penn (Delaware)

23) Wilson (Berks)

24) Wyalusing Area (Bradford)

25) Wyomissing (Berks)

For a copy of the resolution and more information about Act 1, go to

15,000 Phyrillas fans and counting

I know you're out there. I can hear you breathing.

Another milestone over the weekend. I passed 15,000 unique visitors to this site since I started keeping track of visitors on Dec. 1, 2006.

I'd like to thank everyone who has visited this blog and especially those who keep coming back.

I would encourage more of you to leave comments at the end of my postings. The only people who tend to leave comments are the far left types who disagree with me.

I know most of you agree with my views or you wouldn't keep coming back.

So, don't hesitate to share your thoughts. As we get closer to important elections in Pennsylvania in 2007 and nationally in 2008, it's time for the silent majority to start speaking up. We've allowed the vocal minority to take over the political system. Time for common-sense views to prevail.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Countdown to May 15

On May 15, Pennsylvania voters will have an opportunity to send a message to Gov. Ed Rendell and the members of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Nearly every school district in the state has placed a referendum question on the primary ballot concerning a tax shift from the onerous property tax to either an earned income tax or a personal income tax.

This is what Rendell and the Legislature consider property tax reform. Asking you whether you want to pay from the left pocket or the right pocket. Either way, you're left with the bill.

That's all the most expensive Legislature in the country could come up with after a 10-month "special session" on property tax reform. The result, House Bill 39, now known as Act 1, is a slap in the face of every taxpayer in Pennsylvania.

On May 15, you have an opportunity to slap Rendell and the Legislature back. Maybe a swift kick in the pants, too. Regardless of what the question on your local ballot states, you should vote No. It's the only way to get the Harrisburg politicians back to the table to deal with property taxes.

So far this year, 23 school districts in Pennsylvania have passed resolutions calling for the repeal of Act 1. School board members who have been living with Act 1 since last June know that it's a sham. Act 1 isn't going to provide long-term tax relief to property owners. And it won't provide adequate funding for public education.

If your school district hasn't passed the resolution yet, find out what the school board is waiting for. Why aren't your school board members looking out for you?

Keep in mind that most of the school board members in Pennsylvania are up for reelection this year. This is the time to hold them accountable. Make sure they're working for you or vote them out.

Act 1 is a sham that will hurt — not help — the majority of taxpayers in most school district. In my school district, two-thirds of the taxpayers are worse off if the Act 1 referendum question passes.

Don't get confused about the money Rendell promised to use for property tax relief from the casinos. That check is in the mail. It just won't arrive until 2008 or 2009 at the earliest. And don't bet on Rendell getting his way in increasing the state sales tax to provide property tax relief down the road.

Act 1 is a tax shift. It's a shell game. It's meant to distract you so politicians don't have to do their job. It's a way to shift the tax burden on your neighbor. It's not property tax relief.

Every school board in Pennsylvania should adopt the resolution calling for repeal of Act 1 and lobby legislators to get rid of this sorry excuse for legislation.

For more information about the anti-Act 1 movement and to read a copy of the resolution, go to the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition Web site at

There's also an Act 1 calculator at the site that you can use to see how this useless shift will affect your total school tax bill.

The PTCC, which consists of two dozen citizen taxpayer groups, supports the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future (also known as the Commonwealth Caucus Plan) as the only workable solution to Pennsylvania's property tax mess.

It's time to end the games that Gov. Rendell and his supporters in the Legislature have been playing over the past four years.

Contact your state lawmaker today and insist that the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future get a fair vote in the Legislature.

And vote No on May 15.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Rendell: I Can't Drive 55

From Friday's editorial page of The Mercury:

THORNS to Gov. Ed Rendell in the latest episode of the speeding governors for allowing his chauffeurs to drive at speeds of up to 80 mph on state highways.

Rendell said this week that his state-police chauffeured car sometimes exceeds the speed limit, even though the administration instituted a policy three years ago ordering his drivers to abide by it except in emergencies.

“Sometimes we adhere to the speed limit, sometimes we don't,” Rendell told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg. “I've told my troopers that I don't want them exceeding 80 unless they need to pass or unless there's some real exigent circumstance.”

Rendell made his comments after he was asked whether a crash that injured New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has caused him to slow down. A state trooper was driving Corzine's vehicle at 91 mph when it was clipped by a truck and lost control April 12 on the Garden State Parkway, slamming into a guard rail.

Rendell added that unlike Corzine, he always buckles up. Maybe he should try obeying our state laws, too.

Is it too much to expect our leaders to set a good example? Rendell was clocked doing 100 mph a few years ago. He said he'd slow down. Obviously, he wasn't telling the truth.

Do you see a pattern here?

He promised to cut taxes but he wasn't telling the truth.

He promised to bring the best and brightest people to work for state government, but we saw how his top administrators handled the Interstate 78 fiasco.

He promised to bring new prosperity and jobs to Pennsylvania. But businesses are leaving the state. Witness the recent announcement by Hershey's that it was closing down plants and moving much of its operations to Mexico.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

'Best and brightest' Pennsylvania has to offer

Gov. Ed Rendell issued a press release Thursday congratulating members of his cabinet who were confirmed Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Senate.

The governor couldn't contain himself when offering accolades to his cabinet members.

"My administration is fortunate to include the best and brightest administrators working in state government today," Rendell said.

I'll pause here for the laughter and snickering to die down.

Among the "best and brightest" administrators Rendell was referring to were the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the commissioner of the State Police and the adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Those three top administrators, along with the head of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, were roundly criticized for their bungling of the mid-February ice storm that left about 1,000 motorists stuck on Interstate 78 for up to 24 hours.

That was less than two months ago. Is Rendell's memory that bad?

"I look forward to continuing to work with this talented team to advance our important agenda of progress for Pennsylvania," Rendell said.

Conspicuously absent from Rendell's list of confirmed cabinet members were Secretary of Environmental Protection Kathleen McGinty and Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources Michael DiBerardinis.

Those two members of the "best and brightest" club are embroiled in a growing scandal involving millions of dollars in state grants awarded to companies that employed McGinty's and DiBerardinis' spouses.

Facing possible rejection of both nominees by the Republican-controlled Senate, Rendell withdrew both names on Wednesday, which was the last legislative session day the Senate could reject or approve the two nominees. By withdrawing and resubmitting their nominations, Rendell gives the Senate another 25 legislative days to consider them.

The reported grant totals have risen to $4 million, much higher than the $1.5 million originally reported by the Philadelphia Daily News last week. It appears more records were discovered by the Rendell administration as the Senate asked more questions.

Here's some background on the scandal courtesy of the Associated Press:

McGinty's husband, Karl Hausker, is a consultant to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and its subsidiary, Enterprising Environmental Solutions Inc., which have received more than $2.7 million in grants from her department since 2003, according to the Rendell administration.

The money was to pay for activities that included agricultural conservation, watershed protection, abandoned mine cleanups and more. Rendell pointed out that the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Enterprising Environmental Solutions received DEP grants before McGinty joined the department, and were rejected for more than $4 million in grant applications during his term.

DiBerardinis' wife, Joan Reilly, runs a parks program for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which has received $1.5 million from his department since 2003. The money goes to help manage a program created by DiBerardinis that encourages tree-planting.

At least $500,000 more in grants went from McGinty's agency to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and from DiBerardinis' agency to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

The Rendell administration has said that McGinty and DiBerardinis approved a final list of grant winners, but that department staff selected the winners after a competitive application process that adhered to pre-existing guidelines.

Rendell is sticking by his "best and brightest" administrators for now, but didn't President Bush give a vote of confidence to his FEMA director after Katrina and to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld before kicking them overboard?

The Senate wants the State Ethics Commission to give a ruling on McGinty and DiBerardinis before a confirmation vote takes place.

The chickens are coming home to roost. Scandals long-buried during his first term will continue to surface. The governor's initiatives will hit a brick wall in the Senate. His inability to deliver promised property tax relief (going on five years) will continue to create animosity from voters.

This is going to be a rough second term for Rendell.

Rendell's best hope is for a Democrat to win the White House in 2008 so Rendell can get out of town. He's already overstayed his welcome four months into his second term.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Self-promotion by politicians

In 2004, candidate Barbara McIlvaine Smith criticized an incumbent state lawmaker she was attempting to unseat for using taxpayer money to produce and mail a "newsletter" to constituents.

Now that McIlvaine Smith is a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature, she doesn't have the same concerns about wasting taxpayer money on self-promotion.

The first-term Democrat has quickly adopted the Democratic Party's favorite political motto: "Do as I say, not as I do."

Republicans, who have long memories, are crying foul about McIlvaine Smith's apparent change of heart involving the use of taxpayer-funded "newsletters" by lawmakers.

McIlvaine Smith was in office less than three months when she decided to mail more than 15,000 "newsletters" to residents in Chester County's 156th House District. The "newsletter" informs constituents where McIlvaine Smith's district office is located and recaps all the wonderful work she's done so far this year.

McIlvaine Smith's only claim to fame is that she was the Democrat who defeated the favored Republican to capture the 156th District and tip the balance of power in the state House of Representatives, which is now controlled by Democrats for the first time in 12 years.

Chester County GOP Chairman Joseph "Skip" Brion pounced on McIlvaine Smith's contradictory stances on newsletters.

Residents "should be outraged by the words and actions of Barbara McIlvaine Smith," he told the West Chester Daily Local News. "In 2004 … she attacked incumbents for their use of constituent newsletters, claiming that they were a waste of taxpayers' dollars. Now, she's sending them out."

McIlvaine Smith was quoted in the very same newspaper two years ago as saying: "If incumbents … want to make sure the voters in their districts don’t forget who they are, they should use their own campaign funds to put their names and faces in front of their constituents."

The newsletter mailed out last month was not self-promotion, according to McIlvaine Smith, who dismissed GOP criticism as "sour grapes as usual."

And in an explanation that only Bill Clinton would love, McIlvaine Smith said that when she was campaigning in 2004, she opposed the use of taxpayer-funded newsletters that were mailed out near Election Day, not newsletters in general.

In other words, it's OK to waste taxpayer dollars two years before you run for re-election. It's not right to do it six months before the election.

The Daily Local News pointed out in a recent editorial that McIlvaine Smith's newsletter went far beyond merely informing voters where to find the offices of their new state representative.

The newsletter, according to the newspaper, includes such informative "articles" as "Rep. McIlvaine Smith champions special education" and "Rep. McIlvaine Smith: A champion for the environment."

The newspaper also noted that the newsletter "features no fewer than seven color photos of McIlvaine Smith, in various smiling poses. That would seem to fit the self-promotional aspect of such mailings that many find troubling, whenever they arrive."

McIlvaine Smith should come down from her high horse. The newsletter is political advertising. Nothing more, nothing less.

McIlvaine Smith said some newsletters that other lawmakers mail out cost as much as $25,000. Her newsletter is a bargain at a cost of $3,196.

Brion noted that McIlvaine Smith could have notified people about her new office via postcards instead of a newsletter.

To pretend that the voters of the 156th District need to see seven photos of McIlvaine Smith or read fluff pieces about her first three months in Harrisburg is an insult to her constituents.

The 156th District race was the tightest House contest in last November's election. McIlvaine Smith won by just 28 votes over Republican Shannon Royer. She can easily lose her bid for re-election in 2008 if 29 more Republicans show up at the polls.

The newsletter is political advertising at taxpayers' expense.

Like so many others, McIlvaine Smith ran on a reform platform in 2006, but she quickly fell in line when she got to Harrisburg and will vote exactly how the party bosses tell her to. She has accepted all the perks that voters are sick of hearing about. The extravagant pension, per diems, free life insurance, free health insurance, a state car, etc.

The newsletter McIlvaine Smith sent the folks back home, which is something all 203 members of the House are guilty of doing, is a reminder of how good the members of the House of Lords have it in Harrisburg.

It's also a slap in the face to voters. It's a reminder of how politicians waste our tax dollars every day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

22 school districts oppose Act 1

Two more school boards (Daniel Boone in Berks County and William Penn in Delaware County) approved the resolution calling for the repeal of Act 1 Monday evening.

With the Delaware County addition, all counties surrounding Philadelphia now have at least one Act 1 condemnation school district, according to David Baldinger of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition.

What about the rest of you out there? Act 1 is a sham that will hurt the majority of taxpayers in your school district. Every school board in Pennsylvania should adopt the resolution calling for repeal of Act 1 and lobby legislators to get rid of this sorry excuse for legislation.

Here's the of school districts that are putting their taxpayers first:

Act 1 Resolution Schools

1) Antietam (Berks)

2) Armstrong (Armstrong)

3) Boyertown (Berks/Montgomery)

4) Brandywine Heights (Berks)

5) Bristol Township (Bucks)

6) Canton (Bradford/Lycoming/Tioga)

7) Catasauqua (Lehigh/Northampton)

8) Centennial (Bucks)

9) Central Bucks (Bucks)

10) Coatesville (Chester)

11) Conrad Weiser (Berks)

12) Daniel Boone (Berks)

13) Exeter (Berks)

14) Governor Mifflin (Berks)

15) Palmyra (Lebanon)

16) Pennsbury (Bucks)

17) South Williamsport (Lycoming)

18) Tunkhannock (Wyoming)

19) William Penn (Delaware)

20) Wilson (Berks)

21) Wyalusing Area (Bradford)

22) Wyomissing (Berks)

For more information about the anti-Act 1 movement and to read a copy of the resolution, go to the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition Web site at There's also an Act 1 calculator at the site that you can use to "see how this useless shift will affect your total school tax bill."

The PTCC supports the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future as the only workable solution to Pennsylvania's property tax mess.

It's time to end the charade that Gov. Ed Rendell and his supporters in the Legislature have supported over the past four years. Contact your state lawmaker today and insist that the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future (also known as the Commonwealth Caucus Plan) get a fair vote in the Legislature.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another bloody weekend in Philadelphia

Eleven more people were murdered in Philadelphia this weekend, bringing the city's homicide toll to 127 in the first 112 days of 2007.

Don't look for the story on the front page of the city's biggest newspaper. The Philadelphia Inquirer didn't think 11 murders in one weekend was newsworthy. The left-wing newspaper's lead story Monday is "Scandals plaguing Bush's team," which is a rehash of old news about Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove, etc.

The newspaper couldn't find room on Page 1 to report the rash of murders. But the editors did run a story on the resignation of the city's library director on A1. That's a real page turner. Hmmm. Which is more important to the lives of Philadelphians? 11 more people murdered in what is becoming the most dangerous city in America or a story about some old white guy leaving his job as library director and the internal politics of the library board?

There's also a story about how aging baby boomers will face health problems as they get older. They also have a story about traffic congestion in the suburbs (this is news?) and a profile of one of the city's mayoral candidates.

Five stories on the front page and none of them mention the 11 murders over the weekend. (And you're telling me the Inquirer didn't win any Pulitzer Prizes this year? Hard to believe.) For the record, the Inky did acknowledge the murder spree in a one-column story that ran on B1. That's 17 pages into the paper before you read about the killings.

Television journalism in Philadelphia isn't any better. If you tuned in to the TV news Sunday night, the big story wasn't the climbing death rate. It was about rising temperatures. The lead story on the big three Philadelphia TV stations was the nice weather. Yes, it's spring in Philadelphia and the weather was nice. People went outside and did outdoor things.

When will city leaders, the governor and the media elite get serious about the daily slaughter taking place on Philadelphia streets?

The 11 murders over the weekend should have been the top story on the front page of Philadelphia's daily newspaper and should be the lead story on every radio and TV newscast. The newspaper should have run mug shots of the 11 dead Philadelphians just like newspapers ran photos of the victims of last week's Virginia Tech shootings.

And somebody should inform Edward G. Rendell, the "governor of Philadelphia," that he needs to stop attending ribbon-cuttings for restaurants across the state and start paying attention to the death toll in the state's biggest city. One in six votes Rendell received in his re-election bid for governor in 2006 came from Philadelphia. Don't you think the governor should take a little more interest in the violence on Philadelphia streets?

At least one news organization is paying attention.

The Associated Press is working on a story on Philadelphia's murder rate, which far exceeds many bigger cities in the U.S. and is on pace to be the highest in a decade.

Maybe the Inquirer can pick up the AP story for its Tuesday edition. That might the only way Philadelphia newspaper readers will know there's a serious crime problem in the City of Brotherly Love.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Beware of phony reformers

David Kessler was swept into the state Legislature as part of the anti-incumbent, pro-reform movement in 2006. But how much of a reformer is this guy?

Kessler, a Democrat, managed to win the 130th House District seat held for 20 years by Republican Dennis Leh. Kessler was in the right place at the right time.

It now appears voters in eastern Berks County are having second thoughts about Kessler.

Don't say I didn't warn you about Kessler. He's a classic tax-and-spend liberal and has quickly fallen in line behind the master spender himself, Gov. Ed Rendell. Kessler won't stop cheering for Rendell, who will bankrupt Pennsylvania with his taxes and borrowing.

Voters in the 130th District tossed out Leh because he voted for the pay raise and failed to deliver on promises to eliminate property taxes. Leh also couldn't make up his mind whether he wanted to keep the job, so voters made the decision for him.

Voters thought they heard the right things from Kessler about property tax cuts and reform, but a closer examination of Kessler's campaign materials and information on his Web site show that he's out of step with the voters in the 130th. This guy will rubber-stamp anything Rendell sends down the pike, including those seven new taxes the governor wants you to pay.

That's not exactly what taxpayers had in mind when they voted for change.

I've talked to several of Kessler's constituents who keep asking me the lowdown on their new state representative.

Everything I wanted to say about Kessler was neatly summed up by a resident of the 130th Dist., who recently penned this letter to the editor.

Here's the letter published in the April 20 issue of The Mercury:

Rep. Kessler abandons taxpayers

The voter's rage against the "raise" last year was good, but, the voters have to know and remember that responding to the dollars involved in those raises was significant, but those dollars were and are not that important when compared to the dollars voters are compelled to pay every year for ever escalating property taxes! School property taxes have been, are and will ever be a major and ever escalating cost unless the voters, once and for all, rise up against Harrisburg.

I give credit to Bill Evans for his astute analysis on Rep. David Kessler's proposed 3 percent impact fee on the purchase of a home. Kessler is the guy who stood in front of an Amity Candidate's Night crowd saying he would work for property tax elimination. We better not hold our collective breaths.

Two months ago, I challenged Rep. Kessler on his pledge. His telephone response was that the Commonwealth Caucus plan does not work and that if that plan were enacted then all of New Jersey would move to Pennsylvania because they would not have to pay school taxes and this would drown Pennsylvania with school children and greatly increase costs to run the schools.

This is the type of logic Kessler feels that the voters swallow. He went further to say that he would be proposing next year to have a 40 to 45 percent reduction in school property taxes. We know about "Slick Eddie" and now we have "Deceptive Dave" right here in our own backyard of this district.

As Bill Evans calls on all voters to "not fall asleep" on the PIT and Act 1, not only must we defeat that proposal by voting No, but we must also launch an aggressive campaign to let our legislators know, in no uncertain terms, that major school tax reform is a must this year, not next year or the year after.

Unless we, the voters, take and make the effort to stay on top of this issue, the most significant of all issues that impacts family life and all its inherent and ramified influences, families cannot afford to stay and live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Seniors cannot afford to live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and certainly single persons cannot afford to live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Other states will be more inviting.

Even the state of New Jersey has gotten the message about confiscatory school property taxes by starting to greatly reduce their school taxes and not just blow smoke and scams at the tax paying voters as our legislators have and are again doing.

Yes taxpayers, let us wake up and become active. Write letters, contact the legislators and stay the course to make it happen.


I couldn't have said it better myself, Mr. Ferensick.

Voters in the 130th should start looking for an alternative to Kessler for the 2008 elections.

Kessler answers to the party bosses in Harrisburg, not the residents back home.

Take a look at all the campaign money that poured into Kessler's coffers last year from Democratic Party big-shots and career politicians across the state. They don't invest that kind of money on a candidate unless they're sure he'll vote the way he's told.

Getting rid of Leh was the right thing to do. He lost touch with the folks back home and fell in love with the perks of the office. But his replacement isn't much better.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Phyrillas wins award for columns

I found out today that I won another award for my column-writing.

This one is a third-place showing in the Commentary category for daily newspapers in the Spotlight Contest sponsored by the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. (I'm pretty sure there were more than three entries).

Congratulations to first place winner Mitchel Olszak of the New Castle News and second place winner Marsha Keefer of the Beaver County Times.

The SPJ contest is open to all newspapers in Pennsylvania. (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review won a ton of awards in this year's competition. Way to go, guys.)

The Mercury won a total of three awards. In addition to my award for columns, the newspaper received a third-place recognition in layout by Sunday Editor Chuck Pitchford and a third-place in the Enterprise Story for our coverage of last June's flooding. The paper won several other awards for the flooding coverage.

It's always nice to be recognized by peers. Earlier this year, I won first place in the Best Opinion Column category from Suburban Newspapers of America, which has 2,000 members.

I won a second place award last year from the Philadelphia Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

And let's not forget being named one of the 10 leading Greek-American bloggers in the world by Odyssey magazine, which has 80,000 readers in 45 countries.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Liberals cling to Supreme Court seats

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens turns 87 on Friday. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently celebrated her 74th birthday.

Those two liberal stalwarts are desperately trying to hang on for at least another two years. Otherwise, President George W. Bush gets to replace them with conservative judges.

How important is that?

Wednesday's 5-4 ruling upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act is a perfect example.

The court's four conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both Bush appointees, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, were joined by moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy to form the majority on the abortion vote.

The four liberals on the court — Stevens, Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer — wanted to overturn the Congressional ban on partial birth abortion.

Wednesday's ruling was hailed as a landmark decision, almost as dramatic as the original Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Times have changed for abortion supporters.

As the Associated Press noted, "Gone from the court was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, her place taken last year by Alito. She had been in a 5-4 majority that struck down a state law banning the controversial abortion procedure seven years ago. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who penned an impassioned dissent in that case, wrote Wednesday's opinion for a conservative majority allowing the first nationwide ban on an abortion procedure since the Roe v. Wade decision upholding abortion rights in 1973. The ruling sets the stage for additional restrictions on a woman's right to choose."

The court's liberal justices, in dissent, called the decision alarming and said it chipped away at abortion rights, AP writer Mark Sherman notes.

President Bush may have been emasculated by the mishandling of the Iraq War and his domestic agenda is in ruins thanks to incompetent staff, but there is one area where he can still leave a lasting legacy: Supreme Court nominees.

Replacing Ginsburg, who has deep and long-standing connections with the ACLU, would be a plum for the Bush presidency.

That's why the remaining two years of Bush's term are important. There are still advantages to being in the White House regardless of how low your approval numbers may be.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cleaning up the mess at PHEAA

Say goodbye to the $150 cigars, the $10,000 bar tabs, the gourmet meals and those facials and foot rubs.

The days of living large at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency appear to be coming to an end. It was great while it lasted.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner announced his department plans to audit PHEAA in light of the $750,000 in questionable spending by the agency in recent years.

On Wednesday, state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., said he has asked a Senate committee to hold hearings on PHEAA expenses.

The jig is up, boys.

Rafferty has also introduced legislation to shake up the PHEAA board, which is made up mostly of fellow lawmakers who have been asleep at the wheel while PHEAA employees lived the lifestyles of the rich and famous on money that could have been used to provide grants and loans to Pennsylvania college students.

In a release announcing the hearings, Sen. Raffery said he is "outraged by the excessive and wasteful spending by PHEAA" and wants the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Policy Committee to conduct public hearings in May on the policies regarding expenditures of PHEAA employees and board members; and review legislation to provide better oversight.

Over the last few years, lavish expenses for board members and employees for trips, spas, golf, alcohol and even falconry lessons were approved, according to Rafferty.

Sen. Rafferty has introduced legislation that will require PHEAA to contract with a third party accounting firm to conduct an annual forensic audit of the PHEAA board that must be submitted to the House and Senate Finance Committees by April 1 of each year.

PHEAA would also be required on that date to submit a report to the Senate and House Finance Committees that contains all expenses and revenues associated with the operations of the PHEAA board.

This legislation also requires that all appointees to the PHEAA board selected by the House and the Senate be approved by a majority vote in their respective chambers. It would prohibit standing legislators from serving more than two consecutive terms on the PHEAA board.

"Our goal is to bring greater accountability and fiscal responsibility to PHEAA and ensure that funds are not spent in a wasteful or unnecessary manner," Rafferty said. "The recent stories of financial mismanagement and over-the top-spending have made it necessary for us to take a closer look at the agency's fiscal bottom line."

Among the legislators serving on the PHEAA board are Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald I. Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; Rep. Craig A. Dally; Sen. Jane M. Earll; Sen. Vincent J. Fumo; Sen. Vincent J. Hughes; Rep. Sandra J. Major; Rep. Jennifer L. Mann; Rep. Joseph F. Markosek; Sen. Michael A. O'Pake; Sen. James J. Rhoades; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; and Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

No response yet from PHEAA President and CEO Dick Willey to Rafferty's call for Senate hearings, but Willey did issue a statement regarding Wagner's call for a performance audit, essentially saying, "Bring it on."

"PHEAA is typically audited more than 40 times every year by our regulating authorities and other entities," Willey said. "We have become very accustomed to the auditing environment and take advantage of audits to not only validate, monitor and account for our financial and compliance activities, but also as an effective tool to help us better manage and improve our operations."

Hey, when you're the second highest-paid public official in the state (Willey makes $290,000 a year, not counting bonuses), you can afford to be cavalier.

Rafferty's efforts to clean up the PHEAA mess are commendable. But any reform at PHEAA will have to start with the departure of Willey and the replacement of everyone on the agency's board.

19 districts call for repeal of Act 1

The momentum is growing. So far, 19 Pennsylvania school districts have passed resolutions calling for the Legislature to repeal Act 1, also known as the great tax relief hoax of 2006.

The latest school districts to join the anti-Act 1 movement are Armstrong School District and Wilson School District, according to David Baldinger of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition.

The PTCC is asking voters to vote NO on the Act 1 referendums on the May 15 primary election ballots, while also asking the Legislature to repeal the law.

For more information about Act 1 and a copy of the resolution, go to the PTCC Web site at

Here's the list so far:

In case you're losing track, here's the list:
1) Antietam (Berks)
2) Boyertown (Berks/Montgomery)
3) Bristol Township (Bucks)
4) Centennial (Bucks)
5) Central Bucks (Bucks) (largest district in the state subject to Act 1 provisions)
6) Coatesville (Chester)
7) Conrad Weiser (Berks)
8) Governor Mifflin (Berks)
9) Pennsbury (Bucks)
10) South Williamsport (Lycoming)
11) Tunkhannock (Wyoming)
Wyomissing (Berks)
Brandywine Heights (Berks)
Wyalusing Area (Bradford)
Catasauqua (Lehigh/Northampton)
Palmyra (Lebanon)
Canton (Bradford/Lycoming/Tioga)
18) Armstrong (Armstrong)
19) Wilson (Berks)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reader mail

I get lots of feedback from readers (besides the comments left at this site at the end of postings.) I've been remiss in sharing readers' views in recent months so I'm going to make a concerted effort to post as many comments from readers as I can each week.

Here's this week's installment from the Tony Phyrillas Mail Bag:

Hi Tony,

I say "Amen" to your global warming argument as printed in the Mercury 4/12/07.

The hysteria the left creates (as with the Y2K crisis) rouses a level of panic that is unfounded. Al Gore is no spiritual guru as he has been proved wrong on many issues in the past.

Vernon S.


Good one Tony on global warming hysteria.

And then there's always China and India who, in the name of industrialization/globalization, don't give a damn about pollution and it's alleged effects on global warming. So what's the big deal? "Whether it's cold or whether it's hot, We will have weather, Whether or not."



Dear Tony:

You are right on when it comes to exposing liberal agendas. I see Al Gore as a genuine left-wing liberal from the word go. Keep up the good work, I read your collum on a regular basis. Once again thank you. Your friend John

Joel S.


Tax shift, tax shaft, tax shuffle: Act 1 is a sham promoted by the governor in a way that would put private business owners in jail for false advertising. Taxpayers throughout the state owe sincere thanks to Tony and the 12 school districts that have gone public, over and over again, with their discontent.

What can we do? Vote NO on May 15th, demand repeal of Act 1, and fight for passage of the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future.



News flash: Rendell lied about tax cuts from casino revenues. Why am I not surprised? Because I didn't just fall off a turnip truck, that's why. Did people really think the slots were going to get us a tax beak? Dream on.

Celli F. (71 and getting more cynical by the day)



Thursday 4/12/07, Mercury article by Mark Scolfro, AP, on the proposal for reform of the State Ethics Committee.

Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Phila., said there was no evidence that "wrongdoers are being sheltered" by the current Ethics Committee and was among three Democrats who voted no the proposal for change. Republicans supported the recommendation unanimously.

This is the same Mark Cohen who was billing State taxpayers thousands of dollars for periodicals and magazines. When questioned, his arrogant response was "he was an avid reader" He was spending more tax dollars than the State was providing to public libraries.

Can he be nominated for the head of the Antics Committee? Business as usual Some people have no shame.

Bill M.


Hi Tony,

GREAT article in the paper yesterday on illegal immigrants. I wish it were in ALL the Papers across the United States. KEEP IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob W.


It's time for Gov. Rendell and legislators to bring out the truth about the property tax on primary residences. The governor had 4 years to do it when he promised the people if they elected him that he would hold a special session on property tax. What did the governor do, but canceled
the special session the day after he got elected? It's painfully obvious that the governor and the legislature have let the people down again. They have tinkered with our property tax to give us only a small reduction. These politicians must believe that the people are stupid and they must make the decisions.

Act 1 herald by Rendell as a historic tax relief has turned out to be a cruel hoax on Pennsylvania home owners and farm. Voters must not let the governor and legislators off the hook with their chicanery on property taxes. The wise thing to do is to vote NO in May on the Local School Tax Referendum. If the majority of school districts reject the tax shift questions, the legislature will have to deal with true property tax reform again.

Property owners will not tolerate these fraudulent bills any longer and must contact our legislators and let them know they have one last chance to come up with true property tax reform or they will be out of a job in the next election,

John C.


Tony, I read your latest column concerning "Ozone Man" - Al Gore and I offer you the following comments:

1- Now that the democrats control congress the wacko environmental madness is again coming out of the woodwork-with much gleeful support from your colleagues in the press. Global warming hysteria, TCE ( the environs favorite scare tactic ) the chasing of parts per trillion of a microbe in water and air and all other sorts of nonsense which, as you accurately pointed out, are just smoke screens for the Liberals to steal more money from the taxpayers with their hairbrained political agenda. Jimmy Carter's biggest claim to fame- he created the EPA to " create jobs in a new industry."

2- I have spent over 15 years of my adult life, since I relocated up to Berks County, in government as a Township Supervisor, Zoning Board member and a nine year stint on the Berks County Board of Assessment and I can tell you this - the amount of govt. dreamed up nonsense that I have seen perpetuated over environmental lunacy could fill a book.

3- Now the real question - Writing articles like you did to combat the govt. sponsered lunacy like Gore is shoving at people is great but would you really like to expose and chase down evironmental BS at its max?

4- If you do- you should really investigate the lunacy that the EPA has created with the alledged super fund sites. I have been in the middle of this nonsense for 24 years and I can tell you that what the EPA has done to our area in particular chasing phantom environmental scares is govt. boondoogling at its worst. The crime, as I see it , is that they scare people to death with this cancer risk stuff and in their own guidelines it states that they have NEVER linked cancer with any of this. I could go on for hours. NOT ONE SHRED OF EVIDENCE but millions of wasted dollars. When the GOP controls congress they essentially go away-when the Socialists take over (Dems) they all show up again like clockwork. It's a real tragedy what they have done up here.

5-Someone has to combat this madness as the GOP won't and the media are in
the Libs back pocket.

Keep up the good work

Bob W.


Hard as it is to believe, not everyone agrees with me. Here's two comments from the loyal opposition:

I will voice my opinion on the Immigration Debate. You are wrong, but entitled to your opinion. Lets hope those in Congress think rationally when deciding on Reform and not in your
direction. Everyone deserves a chance at living the best life possible.



When Jon Cozine took office, he threatened to close down the parks and beaches and anything else he could think for to force a 1 percent tax increase.

Corizine increased our sales tax for 6% to 7% to pay for this. Corizine is gutless.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Aliens among us

If you think illegal immigration is somebody else's problem, guess again.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 61 suspected illegal aliens in Pennsylvania in April. Seventeen were rounded up in the Pittsburgh area, the rest in Berks and Montgomery counties. Last time I looked at a map, Pennsylvania did not border Mexico.

A search of a home in Reading where two Mexican citizens were living turned up a cache of weapons, including a Chinese AK47 assault rifle, sawed-off shotguns, several other rifles, a large quantity of marijuana, ammunition, $71,000 in cash and numerous fraudulent documents, according to ICE agents.

Illegal immigration is not a problem in Texas and New Mexico and California. It's not just an issue in Hazleton, Pa., where the ACLU sued the city because it dared to crack down on illegal aliens living and working in the community.

Why is the American Civil Liberties Union so worked up about protecting the "rights" of lawbreakers? Since when are illegal aliens entitled to "civil liberties" from the country they entered illegally?

Illegal aliens are everywhere. They are living among us. They're working in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant. They probably cut your grass or worked on your landscaping. They may have built your house. They certainly are working on farms, picking your fruits and vegetables.

Some of the illegal aliens are waiting in the emergency room of your local hospital. Others are lining up for welfare and other government handouts.

They're also selling drugs, stealing cars, breaking into homes, killing and raping U.S. citizens. They are driving without a license and might end up crashing into you on a highway and killing you or your loved ones.

Up to 14 million illegal aliens and their families are in the United States today. That's bigger than population of many countries.

Politicians from George W. Bush to John McCain to Ted Kennedy want to grant the 12 million to 14 million illegals permanent residency in the United States under various amnesty bills being considered by Congress.

One study projects government payments to provide services to illegal aliens, once they're granted amnesty, would cost American taxpayers between $850 billion to $1 trillion.

Some of the illegal immigrants arrested in the four-day roundup in Pennsylvania, which began April 2, had criminal records.

Two of those arrested in Pittsburgh were wanted on outstanding motor vehicle charges, a third was wanted for a sex crime and a fourth for being a deported alien who illegally re-entered the country, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Since the arrests, it was learned that three others were deported who illegally re-entered the country, the newspaper reported.

The 37 illegal immigrants arrested in Norristown included 44-year-old Victorino Anaya Reza, a fugitive with convictions for sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Times-Herald newspaper.

The 61 illegal aliens are natives of Brazil, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Lebanon, Mexico, Slovakia and the United Kingdom, the newspaper reported.

Eleven of those arrested have criminal records that include sexual abuse, endangering the welfare of a minor, theft, motor vehicle violations, narcotics violations and driving under the influence, the newspaper reported.

The far left has mislead Americans about the immigration debate. Liberals assume that all illegal aliens are here to do the jobs that Americans don't want. They pretend the illegal aliens among us are all hard-working, decent people who just want to help their families back home. The truth is that many illegals are criminals who entered our borders to target on our society.

The liberal news media has failed to frame the illegal immigration debate fairly.

The millions of people who entered this country illegally over the past few decades broke our laws as their first act upon entering the U.S. Many of them continue to break our laws on a daily basis. Why should we reward them with citizenship?

The blanket amnesty that President Bush and Congressional Democrats are pushing should be off the table. The excuse that these people are already here won't wash. It's like somebody breaking into your home to steal your belongings or do your family harm and when you call the police, the authorities force you to provide food and shelter for the criminal.

No reform of U.S. immigration laws can begin while 14 million illegal aliens hold this nation and our political system hostage.

We must begin by deporting all the illegals back to their home countries. Then, we will consider guest worker visas or applications for legal citizenship.

Tens of millions of Americans came to this country from overseas. In many ways, immigrants built this nation. But they did it legally. They came to this country through proper channels, not by sneaking across the border.

All Americans need to voice their opinion on the immigration debate. This issue is too important to the nation's survival to leave it in the hands of spineless politicians.

13,000 Phyrillas fans and counting

I've been remiss in keeping you updated on the growing popularity of this blog. I'm now averaging 3,000 visitors a month.

Since Dec. 1, 2006, when I started keeping track of visitors to the site, I've recorded 13,700 unique visitors.

I'd like to thank everyone who keeps checking the site on a regular basis. I'm indebted to Chris Lilik at GrassrootsPA and John Micek at Capitol Ideas, who send me the most readers from links on their blogs. Two other sites that send readers my way on a regular basis are and

Another blog of note, a site that provides quick access to all sorts of interesting political sites in Pennsylvania and across the country.

The address to get to Pennsylvania blogs is

You can get a quick look at recent postings on all the major political blogs in the state and you can even rate the blogs.

You can click on articles that strike your fancy from the index on and the site will take you to the individual blog.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Where was Rendell at FBI agent's funeral?

More than 3,000 people attended the viewing and funeral for slain FBI agent Barry Bush in Pottstown Thursday. The mourners included U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and several current U.S. Attorneys.

Conspicuously absent was Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell.

Corzine paid his respects to the Bush family in the morning before he returned to New Jersey, where he was involved in a serious car crash late Thursday. Corzine made the two-hour trip to Pottstown because Bush was a part of the Newark office of the FBI and was killed while staking out bank robberies in Hunterdon County, N.J.

Bush was a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, a native and former police officer in Pottstown and a longtime resident of the Easton area.

Although the Pennsylvania State Police (along with local police departments from across the state) were represented at the funeral, Rendell's absence was an embarrassment for Pennsylvania.

Rendell has taken a taxpayer-funded plane to fly to political events across the state in the past. He's also driven hundreds of miles to attend fund-raisers for Democrats.

Someone suggested Rendell could have sent Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll to the funeral in his place, but judging from the odd behavior of the geriatric lieutenant governor at other funerals, it's just as well that she didn't attend the Bush funeral.

But Rendell is another story. He's been known to rearrange his schedule to cut ribbons at the grand openings of restaurants. He attends county fairs and baseball games and all Eagles home games. When he wants to be somewhere, his schedule suddenly opens up.

There was nothing more important for Rendell to do Thursday than represent the state at Bush's funeral.

It was another black eye for the state at a time when the nation's eyes were on Pennsylvania.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Minimum wage hike backfires

I posted a column earlier this year about how the minimum wage increase in Pennsylvania was cited by the owner of a Boyertown restaurant as one of the reasons she decided to go out of business, sending 85 workers to the unemployment line.

One of those know-it-all liberals from the Lehigh Valley quickly posted a response to the column saying one isolated incident doesn't prove the minimum wage hike was a mistake.

I'd like to direct my Lehigh Valley pal to new survey results released by The Lincoln Institute that found that Pennsylvania's business climate has declined in the past six months.

And what has been the biggest impact on the state's economy in the past six months? The minimum wage increase pushed by Gov. Ed Rendell and the Democrats in the Legislature.

"As predicted by many business groups Pennsylvania employers are reacting to the recent increase in the state's minimum wage by hiring fewer unskilled workers, not hiring new employees and even reducing the number of people they employ," according to the Lincoln Institute's Spring 2007 Keystone Business Climate Survey.

To read the survey results, go to

You can also read a summary of Pennsylvania's declining business climate under Gov. Rendell in an op-ed piece by the Lincoln Institute's Lowman Henry posted at the Commonwealth Foundation Web site,

It appears I was right once again. It appears the liberals were wrong once again. And of course, the national Democrats in Washington are working on raising the minimum wage so they can damage the economy in all 50 states.

The minimum wage increase by Rendell and the Democratic lemmings in the state Legislature was an election-year ploy to distract voters from the fact that Rendell and his lockstep Democrats failed to address property tax relief for the fourth year in a row. It was political pandering at its worst.

The Democrats got enough of a boost with their "feel-good" legislation to take the November election. Pennsylvania workers are now paying the price ... on the unemployment line.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Global warming or a lot of hot air?

I know it's the politically correct thing to do, but I just can't bring myself to jump on the global warming bandwagon.

Maybe it's the bitterly cold winter (and spring) we just had in the Northeast. Maybe it's the United Nations, the most corrupt and distrustful organization on the planet. I don't care how many reports the globalists at the U.N. release about climactic catastrophes. I don't trust anything the U.N. says or does.

Maybe Al Gore is the problem. The man who claims he invented the Internet has a serious credibility problem. Maybe it's the news that Al Gore's Tennessee mansion uses 20 times the energy of a typical American home.

Maybe it's the fact that Al Gore travels to his lectures or to pick up his Oscar in a private jet, polluting the environment for thousands of miles. Maybe it's the fact that Al Gore didn't seem too concerned about global warming when he served in the Clinton White House for eight years.

Weather is something I've never been able to get overly excited about. This is the first time in more than 300 columns that I've written about global warming. I look at Al Gore and his limousine liberal pals from the West Coast and I'm leery about people who fan the flames of hysteria for profit and self-promotion.

If Al Gore has you worried about the future of the planet with his "sky is falling" prophecies, take a deep breath and follow my advice. March down to your bookstore or local library and pick up a copy of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism" by Christopher C. Horner.

The 288-page book, recently released in paperback by Regnery Publishing, puts the global warming hysteria into perspective.

Forget all the pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. The book explains climate change as a natural phenomenon in terms any layman would understand. The Earth has gone through extended periods of cooling and heating. There's nothing unusual about what's happening today. Horner points out that the planet is on the tail end of an extended cooling period.

What's different today is that we have people like Al Gore who have latched on to a new brand of militant environmentalism to push their political agenda. The mainstream media elites gladly hop aboard the propaganda campaign and help disburse a lot of hot air on a daily basis.

Horner's book is both informative and entertaining. Let's just say it's a lot more fun than Gore's monotonous "documentary" that swept all the awards from left-leaning Hollywood types. You owe it to yourself to read it before you get sucked too far into the global warming hysteria.

Another good source of information about global warming I recently came across is the Web site,

Operated by Joseph Conklin, a meteorologist who has spent years collecting and analyzing surface weather observations, the Web site is a clearinghouse of global warming information that isn't readily available in the mainstream media.

Conklin points out on the Web site that he is not affiliated with any political party and has no relationship with any energy company. He also champions the use of renewable energy to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. is dedicated to "promoting an open exchange and dialog on climate change," according to Conklin. To achieve that goal, "research and articles with alternate views on climate change are the primary sources of news and information for the site."

The book and the Web site offer calm, intelligent, reasonable explanations about climate change. They're a far better resource that the hysterical left's doom-and-gloom predictions.

I'm not a scientist. I gather as much information about a subject as I can and examine it with an objective eye. I also look at people's motivation. Everybody wants to breathe fresh air. And we all want those cute penguins at the South Pole to have plenty of fish to eat. It's the far left that politicized the global warming debate to the point where they've turned off half the country.

Al Gore is fanning the flames of global warming hysteria for his own personal aggrandizement. The far left doomsayers are right behind him. Consider their motives. I don't trust Al Gore.

Liberals have been wrong about every major issue of public policy over the past 50 years -- the economy, national security, education, transportation, Social Security, health care. You name it. So why would they suddenly be right about climate change?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Jim Gerlach's costly clerical error

Rep. Jim Gerlach, the Southeastern Pennsylvania congressman who was one of the few bright spots for Republicans in November 2006, has taken a few hits lately. His biggest political wound is self-inflicted.

Gerlach announced Wednesday afternoon that the Federal Election Commission has fined him $120,000 for campaign finance reporting irregularities. That's the last thing a man who has barely won 51 percent of the vote in his district last year needs to tell the world about.

Gerlach has struggled to win election to the 6th Congressional District seat in each of his three runs for the office in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

His last two contests were against Main Line lawyer Lois Murphy, who came within a few thousand votes of unseating Gerlach in both 2004 and 2006.

Murphy attacked Gerlach about campaign finances pretty hard last year, but the issue never resonated with voters. The latest FEC fine is more ammunition against Gerlach for his 2008 opponent, whether it be Murphy or someone else.

Gerlach over-reported more than $2 million in contributions in 2004 and 2005, and misreported about $8,900 in refunded contributions in another report, the FEC announced Wednesday. His campaign also failed to itemize contributor information in its 2004 year-end report, the agency said.

Gerlach said the FEC fine is the result of "clerical errors" that were reported more than 17 months ago. Not sure how his explanation will play. Scandals have a long shelf-life in politics.

"At the end of the day, the campaign did make clerical errors. It is my campaign and I accept responsibility," Gerlach said. "We are voluntarily putting this clerical nightmare behind us and moving on."

Even before the news of the $120,000 fine surfaced, Gerlach was smarting from recent news accounts that he is considered vulnerable when he seeks re-election in 2008.

Josh Drobnyk, who works in the Washington Bureau of the Allentown Morning Call, wrote a story last week listing Gerlach and fellow GOP Rep. Charlie Dent among the 36 House Republicans the White House considers the most vulnerable GOP incumbents heading into the 2008 elections.

Republicans lost control of the House in 2006 and any hope of regaining the majority means they need to keep all 36 "vulnerable" seats while going after the freshman class of Democrats swept into office by the anti-Iraq, anti-Bush wave last November.

Gerlach was supposed to finally breathe easy after beating back Lois Murphy in 2006. Voters had two chances to elect Murphy and passed on the far left candidate both times. Her best shot to beat Gerlach was 2006, but she blew it. She had unlimited access to money, full support of the national Democratic Party machine and the anti-Bush sentiment running through the country.

It's unlikely Murphy will come back for a third shot against Gerlach in 2008 and there aren't too many other Democratic names who could give Gerlach a serious run.

Dent wasn't suppose to be vulnerable, but he won just 54 percent of the vote against an unknown and underfunded Democrat named Charles Dertinger. That puts Dent on the endangered list for 2008.

The freshman class of Democratic congressmen from Pennsylvania who should worry about holding on to their seats in 2008 include Patrick Murphy, in Bucks County's 8th District; Joe Sestak in Delaware County's 7th District; Chris Carney in the 10th District; and Jason Altmire in the 4th District.

Republicans could easily win back all four of those seats, especially since the Democrats haven't exactly set the world in fire during their first 100 days in control of Washington, D.C.

Other than raising the minimum wage and setting a date for U.S. surrender in Iraq, the Democrats don't have much to show for their majority control of Congress.