Thursday, January 31, 2008

GOP recruits admiral to oust Sen. Dinniman

All hands on deck!

Chester County Republicans have found a formidable opponent for state Sen. Andy Dinniman, who is in his second year in the Senate after winning a special election in 2006 following the death of longtime GOP state Sen. Robert Thompson.

The 19th Senate District has always been Republican territory but the combination of a well-known, well-liked Democrat (Dinniman, who served many years as a Chester County commissioner) and a mediocre Republican candidate (fellow county commissioner Carol Aichele) tipped the scales.

The Chester County GOP sleepwalked through the 2006 campaign and lost a seat that the party should have held.

Republicans think they can take the seat back.

The man who they believe can do the job is Steve Kantrowitz, a retired two-star Navy admiral and a lawyer.

His last active-duty assignment was Special Assistant and Aide to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. He also earned an advanced degree from George Washington University Law School during his more than five years of continuous active duty by attending classes at night.

Kantrowitz has a Web site and is circulating nominating petitions for the April 22 primary. He received the Chester County Republican Party's endorsement last month.

Although details are still sketchy, Kantrowitz will focus on the following issues:
* Cutting taxes and controlling spending to make Pennsylvania a leader among states in job and income growth.
* Preserving open space while safeguarding private property rights.
* Saving community hospitals and doctors by reforming a broken legal system.
* Restoring confidence in government through openness, honesty and candor, not only in Harrisburg but also in local government and school districts.
* Reforming our school system by demanding real accountability to parents, students and taxpayers.

Anchor-babe Alycia Lane prepares to sue TV station

I can't figure out the angle for Alycia Lane.

The Associated Press is reporting that the dethroned queen of Philadelphia news is working on a lawsuit against her former employer, KYW-TV 3, the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia.

KWY fired Lane after she was arrest for allegedly assaulting a New York City policewoman.

Lane, through her attorney, said at the time that the firing was inappropriate because Lane had not been convicted.

While technically correct, Lane has already been tried in the court of public opinion. And in the world of TV news, public opinion is what counts.

There's no way KYW could have allowed Lane back on the air after the embarrassment she caused the station.

The wire service reports that Lane is seeking depositions and documents in preparation of a lawsuit. Rosen's filing claimed the station did not notify Lane in writing she had been fired or give specific reasons for her dismissal, the AP says.

What exactly is Lane hoping to get out of this? She will never get her $700,000-a-year job back. It's pretty clear she violated the terms of her contract by her behavior, whether it is determined to have been criminal or not.

Lane's arrest in December was the latest in a string of odd and embarrassing behavior for the comely talking head. That appearance on Dr. Phil. Those bikini photos Alycia e-mailed to a married man.

Is she looking for a big pay day from KWY? Do you think another TV station will her if she takes her former employer to court?

Alycia, sweetheart, here's some advice. Change your hair color, change your name and move to another part of the country. Get a fresh start somewhere else.

Alycia, you're 35. Your best days are behind you in the world of "broadcast journalism." The clock is ticking.

Reed wants rematch against Kessler in 130th House District

Billy A. Reed wants another shot at the 130th District House seat in the state Legislature.

The Republican said he will seek his party's nomination on April 22 to run against incumbent Rep. David Kessler, a freshman Democrat.

Reed, who has never held political office, defeated Republican Dennis Leh, a 20-year member of the House, in the May 2006 primary election but lost to Kessler in the fall contest.

His reasons for running haven't changed since 2006, Reed said.

"As citizens of this Commonwealth, we have a duty to be certain that our public servants are faithful to their obligations," Reed said. "Our representatives in Harrisburg all made the promise to eliminate the real property tax. To date that hasn't happened."

In a shot at Kellser and other members of the freshman class of 2006, Reed said, "We need a Legislature that keeps its promises to the people -- real tax reform, reduce the perks and benefits, term limits, health care in line with the average citizen, streamline the entire government."

In addition to reform issues, Reed also wants more emphasis on alternative energy sources such as solar and wind.

Reed also wants to see Pennsylvania honor its heritage by observing Sept. 28 as "Constitution Day."

The Rockland Township resident owns a business near Fleetwood and was a former manufacturer of model railroading parts and accessories.

A lifelong resident of Berks County, the 52-year-old Reed said his experience as a small business owner and entrepreneur will come in handy in Harrisburg.

"I learned to deal fairly with people, as customers, suppliers and even government regulators," Reed said. "All of which leads to the ability to recognize a need and the needs of others. To set goals and achieve the goal."

Before his 2006 foray into politics, Reed ran unsuccessfully for Berks County commissioner in 2003.

Reed also wants to see restrictions in school designs to curb runaway spending by school districts and supports term limits for all elected officials.

Kessler hasn't formally announced if he is running for a second term, but is expected to seek reelection.

The only other announced candidate is Republican Aaron J. Durso, a Birdsboro Borough Councilman and pastor of Love Christian Fellowship in Birdsboro.

The 130th House District in Eastern Berks County consists of Amity, Colebrookdale, Douglass, Earl, Exeter (Voting Districts 01, 03, 06 and 07), Oley, Pike, Rockland, Ruscombmanor and Union townships and the boroughs of Birdsboro, Boyertown and Fleetwood.

Striking teachers demand 'respect' from newspaper

Those striking Downingtown School District teachers sure are a testy bunch.

Not only have they inconvenienced 12,000 students and their families by walking out on their jobs, but the teachers' union is on the warpath over an editorial in The West Chester Daily Local News.

A day after the newspaper published an editorial questioning why a contract offer with pay increases of 4.4, 4.5, 4.5 and 4.6 percent over the next four years is not a sign of respect for the teachers, the union leadership responded with a letter accusing the newspaper of disrespecting the teachers by not siding with the teachers demand for more money.

The average salary of a teacher in the Downingtown School District is $59,000 a year. The top salary in the district is $82,000.

The teachers union says that's not enough and Downingtown teachers are forced to leave for jobs in neighboring school districts that pay more.

Find out more about why Pennsylvania leads the nation in teacher strikes at Stop Teacher Strikes in Pennsylvania.

Taxpayer group targets Legislative 'turncoats'

The Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition has sent out an e-mail to 3,000 people across the state informing them about nine state representatives who are being labeled "turncoats" by the taxpayers group.

The nine lawmakers did not support Monday's vote on the Rohrer amendment that would have eliminated property taxes for Pennsylvania homeowners. The nine lawmakers had signed on as co-sponsors of House Bill 1275, but when it came time to vote, they voted against Rohrer's plan.

The PTCC, which represents 26 taxpayers groups across the state, wants its members to know where lawmakers stand on the effort to eliminate property taxes. If you're not on the mailing list, here are the nine "turncoat" lawmakers:

Rep. Steven Capelli, R-83
Rep. Garth Everett, R-84
Rep. Will Gabig, R-199
Rep. Dick Hess, R-78
Rep. Dan Moul, R-91
Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-60
Rep. David Steil, R-31
Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith, D-156
Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-36

(Steil has announced he is no running for re-election, but as far as I can tell, the other eight are planning to seek new terms in 2008 -- unless taxpayers vote them out.)

Group: Pennsylvania needs a spending diet

In anticipation of Gov. Ed Rendell's 2008-09 budget address on Feb. 5, the Commonwealth Foundation has released a report detailing $6.7 billion in spending cuts.

Rendell recently warned that Pennsylvania is facing tough economic times and the surpluses the state has enjoyed in recent years will vanish.

Will Rendell, a notorious spending glutton, heed his own warning and tighten state spending? Unlikely. But if he wants to trim the fat from Pennsylvania government, the Commonwealth Foundation has some tips to put government on a spending diet.

"Spending Tips 2008 highlights some of Harrisburg's most wasteful spending of taxpayer money," says Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. "With the spending of billions of taxpayer money on non-core government programs, we want the citizens of our Commonwealth to be more aware of how state government is misusing and abusing their hard-earned tax dollars. We hope lawmakers use this report as a means to help focus government spending only on those core government functions that truly serve the public good."

Spending Tips 2008, co-authored by Nathan Benefield, Jessica Runk, and Matthew Brouillette, identifies a total of $6.7 billion in spending cuts—$1.2 billion from the state General Fund Budget, $1.2 billion from other operating funds, and $4.2 billion from the capital budget and off-budget programs, according to a news release issued by the Foundation.

If eliminated and returned to the taxpayers, the average family of four in Pennsylvania would realize a $2,100 reduction in their share of the cost of state government, the Foundation claims.

Spending Tips 2008 is part of the Commonwealth Foundation's Pennsylvania Diet Plan: 3 Steps to Fiscal & Economic Health, a program designed to help state government shed millions and billions of dollars in unnecessary and wasteful spending of taxpayer money and put the commonwealth back on a path toward fiscal and economic health, according to the Foundation.

For more on the Pennsylvania Diet Plan, visit

The full report, Government on a Diet: Spending Tips 2008, is available online at or call 717-671-1901 or e-mail for a copy.

Newspaper: Lawmakers fail again on tax relief

If you're still not sure what happened in Harrisburg this week as the state House took up the topic of property tax relief, get in line.

After two days of mass confusion, the Democratic leadership adjourned for a four-day "Groundhog Day" break.

If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on Feb. 2, will we get property tax relief by spring?

The editorial, "Lawmakers missed the chance to enact property tax reform," in today's edition of The Mercury sheds some light on the dazed and confused House under the leadership of Majority Leader Bill DeWeese.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rendell sticks it to state retirees

Some 50,000 Pennsylvania state workers who retired before July 1, 2004, will see health-care co-payments rise dramatically Feb. 1 in a cost-cutting measure ordered by Gov. Ed Rendell.

Rendell made the decision to pass the additional costs to state retirees without consulting with the union representing the retirees or the state Legislature. As you can imagine, state retirees are not happy with the governor's arbitrary move.

"We have no choice. This is being shoved down our throats," said William Wise, a state retiree who lives in Limerick and has been working hard in recent weeks to help spread the word about Rendell's decision.

Rendell authorized the changes last year as a cost-cutting measure. I know it's hard to put the words Ed Rendell and saving money in the same sentence.

The move is expected to save the state $94 million a year. That's a drop in the bucket when you consider Pennsylvania government spends $70 billion a year.

The new co-pay rules cover about 50,000 state workers who retired before July 1, 2004. The Rendell administration negotiated revised benefits for workers who retired after July 1, 2004. There are about 62,000 state retirees.

No one can deny the cost of providing health care benefits to state workers and retirees has risen dramatically. The state pays $550 million a year for health benefits to retirees alone. That's up from $336 million just four years ago, according to state budget officials.

The reason costs have grown so dramatically are pretty obvious. State government is one of the biggest employers in Pennsylvania. There are more state workers, which means there are more state retirees and those retirees are living longer.

(Pennsylvania is the nation's third-oldest state, according to U.S. Census Bureau, with one in five residents over the age of 60).

Without any changes to the benefits retired workers are getting, Pennsylvania faces an estimated liability of $14 billion to continue providing health care coverage to its government retirees, according to the Rendell administration.

The new regulations will provide employees who retired before July 1, 2004, with the same reduced benefits as those who retired after that date. That means instead of a $7 co-pay for a 30-day supply of medicine, the new plan will impose three levels of co-pays: $10 for generic drugs; $18 for name-brand drugs on the state's preferred drug list; and $36 for name-brand drugs not on that list.

Medical co-pays will increase from $15 to $25 for visits to specialists and from $25 to $50 for emergency-room visits.

And traditional Medicare coverage will be replaced with a Medicare private fee-for-service plan (for those retirees who qualify for Medicare.) That change is coming on April 1.

It's interesting to note that the changes do not apply to state lawmakers or retired employees of the state Legislature, which has its own top-of-the-line retirement benefits.

There's not much retirees can do about the changes other than gripe about them. A few letters to the editor have appeared in state newspapers. Some retirees have contacted their legislators but have been told lawmakers can't do anything for them since the governor has the authority to reduce the benefits. There have been some scattered protests across the state by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), but few people have noticed.

Fundamentally, I've always believed that government workers should receive comparable compensation and benefits as those in the private sector. It's hard to get sympathy for your cause when so many fellow Pennsylvanians are in the same predicament or in many cases, have it much worse.

I don't know what the solution is. I guess what really bothers me about the new rules is that Gov. Rendell has increased state spending by $6 billion since he took office in 2003. He's also increased state debt by another $2 billion and the debt could rise to $3 billion before he leaves office.

Rendell loves to spend other people's money. He finds money for inefficient mass transit systems, for sports stadiums and for Hollywood studios that want to film in Pennsylvania. Retired state workers don't matter to Rendell. His attempt to save money on the backs of retired workers seem callus to me.

Newspaper: Pa. Liquor Control Board showing its age

Did you know that Pennsylvania is the biggest wholesale purchaser of alcohol products in the world? There's been a long-running debate whether a state government should be in the alcohol business. Every so often, the discussion comes to the forefront, as it has this week when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a four-part series on the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the consequences of government-owned and regulated liquor sales. You can read the series at the newspaper's Web site.

What I'd like to draw your attention to is an editorial, "Liquor Control Board showing its age at 75," in today's edition of The (Delaware County) Daily Times.

The bottom line is that there's too much money to be made by the Political Class and its minions for the state to give up control of its liquor monopoly. Pennsylvania consumers and Pennsylvania taxpayers are the losers.

Mudslinging in 17th District Senate race

Lisa Paolino, a minor candidate for the Republican nomination to run for the 17th state Senate seat, is spending a lot of her time arguing with critics over some of her past actions and statements.

The odd part about it is that the mudslinging doesn't involve either of Paolino's announced challengers for the GOP nomination to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Connie Williams.

The critical comments about Paolino appear to have originated from people in her own community.

I don't know much about the controversy, but here are two links that may shed some light into candidate Lisa Paolino.

Hillary Clinton reminds me of John Kerry

Bob Parks, writing at The New Media points out some discrepancies in Hillary Rodham Clinton's position on the Iraq War.

I think Hillary is falling into the John Kerry flip-flop trap: I was against the war when I voted for the funding ..."

"To think that the Democrat anti-war strategy has now evolved into one that moved from "The war is lost" to "I think what is motivating the Iraqi government is the debate in the political campaign here" is a glaring example of Clinton (and liberal) narcissism," Parks writes.

"The mainstream media may give her a pass because they are like-minded, but that game will not be played here.

The Democrat Party, through their anti-war, defeatist rhetoric, emboldened the enemy, thus costing many of our soldiers and Iraqi civilians their lives. Hillary Clinton will not be allowed to re-write history."

Read the full post, "Hillary Takes Credit for 'So-Called' Surge Success" at

Colleges plot global warming indoctrination

Anybody seen Al Gore lately? He might be invading a college campus near you this week.

More than 1,300 colleges and universities in all 50 states are participating in a four-day simultaneous "teach-in" starting today.

The state goal? To inform students about "solutions to global the warming problem." The real goal? The climate police want to indoctrinate a generation of future Americans.

The propaganda event is called "Focus the Nation" and "is aimed at building a partnership between today's youth and aging baby boomers to pursue solutions to global warming." Sure sounds like indoctrination to me.

A bunch of colleges and universities in Pennsylvania are participating, including Ursinus College, Kutztown University and Reading Area Community College.

At Ursinus, the event begins today at noon and runs through Saturday, featuring speakers and seminar on climate change topic.

Speakers will range from a who's who of far-left fear mongers, including Andrew Revkin, senior environmental correspondent for the New York Times and Richard Kerr, senior environmental, energy and climate correspondent for the journal Science; to professors like Henry Pollack, professor emeritus of geophysics at the University of Michigan and Richard Alley, Evan Pugh professor of geosciences at Penn State University and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If you'd like to hear the other side of the global warming hoax, check out the links grouped on the left side of my blog.

Say hello to Gov. Knoll

I don't know if the folks at The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review are just having fun with us, but they've raised the prospect of Catherine Baker Knoll, who will be 78 in September, becoming the next governor of Pennsylvania.

Columnist Brad Bumstead opines about the likelihood of Rendell accepting a cabinet post in the Hillary Clinton administration.

"That leaves state government in the hands of his sidekick, Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll," Bumstead writes. "Let's leave the claim she is incapable of governing to her critics. But "CBK," as she's called, isn't anywhere near as competent as Mark Singel, who filled in for an ill Robert Casey Sr., or a Mark Schweiker, who took over for Tom Ridge when he became the first head of the federal Department of Homeland Security. "

Editorial cartoonist Randy Bish also puts things into perspective with this brilliant cartoon.

There's no doubt that Knoll is experienced in the ways of Harrisburg, having served two terms as state treasurer and two terms as lieutenant governor, but she will be 78 and she's already referred Gov. Rendell as "Edward G. Robinson" when she introduced him for a speech during his first term.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SE PA House members who voted against property tax elimination

House Democrats killed what had been advertised as the most practical plan to eliminate the much-hated school property tax in Pennsylvania.

The vote for the tax elimination amendment introduced by Rep. Sam Rohrer, R-Berks, was 47 yeas and 148 nays. Only 10 House Democrats supported the plan, also known as House Bill 1275.

"It's very disappointing," said state Rep. Tom Quigley, R-Montgomery, a longtime supporter of Rohrer's plan. "This is a major setback for the property tax elimination concept."

HB 1275, or the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007, had the support of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations, an organization that represents 26 citizen taxpayer groups across the state.

The so-called Rohrer amendment was offered as part of the House debate on House Bill 1600, a tax-shift plan that would increase the state sales tax and the income tax in return for a reduction in property taxes.

Here's how legislators from Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties voted Tuesday on the amendment.

Voting to eliminate school property taxes:

BERKS COUNTY: David Argall, R-124, Tom Caltagirone, D-127; Jim Cox, R-129, David Kessler, D-130, Carl Mantz, R-187, Doug Reichley, R-134, Sam Rohrer, R-128, Dante Santoni, D-126, Tim Seip, D-125.

CHESTER COUNTY: Stephen Barrar, R-160, Tim Hennessey, R-126, Art Hershey, R-13, Curt Schroder, R-155.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY: Robert Godshall, R-53, Bob Mensch, R-147, Jay Moyer, R-70; Tom Quigley, R-146, Mike Vereb, R-150.

Voting against the plan to eliminate school property taxes:


BUCKS COUNTY: Paul I. Clymer, R-145, Gene DiGirolamo, R-18, John T. Galloway, D-140, Chris King, D-142, Anthony J. Melio, D-141, Bernie O'Neill, R-29, Scott A. Petri, R-178, Marguerite Quinn, R-143, David Steil, R-31, Katharine M. Watson, R-144.

CHESTER COUNTY: Thomas Killion, R-168; Barbara McIlvanine Smith, D-156, Duane Milne, R-167; Chris Ross, R-158; Carole Rubley, R-157.

DELAWARE COUNTY: William F. Adolph Jr., R-165, Mario J. Civera Jr., R-26, Robert C. Donatucci, D-185, Thomas H. Killion, R-168, Thaddeus Kirkland, D-9, Bryan R. Lentz, D-161, Nicholas A. Micozzie, R-163, Ron Raymond, R-162, Greg Vitali, D-166, Ronald G. Waters, D-191.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY: Lawrence Curry, D-154, Michael Gerber, D-148, Kate Harper, R-61, George Kenney Jr. , R-170, Daylin Leach, D-149, Kathy Manderino, D-194, Thomas Murt, R-152, Josh Shapiro, D-153, Rick Taylor, D-151.

Argall challenger wants to restore integrity to Legislature

Democrat William J. Mackey Jr. wants a rematch against state Rep. Dave Argall, R-124.

Mackey ran against Argall in 2006 but could not oust the 22-year veteran even though Argall supported the infamous July 2005 legislative pay raise.

Not much has changed in the past two years in terms of the need to clean up the mess in Harrisburg, according to Mackey, a retired pipe fitter from Scuylkill County.

"Our state government is at a low point," Mackey told the Reading Eagle. "We need to restore integrity. That's my motto."

Unlike my Kool Aid drinking friends on the left who keep supporting do-nothing Democrats for re-election, I welcome reformers from both parties.

Mackey sounds like a genuine reformer. Argall, a longtime member of the Republican leadership, is part of the problem in Harrisburg.

The 124th District covers parts of Berks and Schuylkill counties.

Another challenger for Sen. Vince Fumo

Already facing a 129-count federal indictment for fraud, state Sen. Vince Fumo now has to contend three possible challengers for the Senate seat he's held for decades.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that John Dougherty, a Philadelphia union leader, is circulating nominating petitions to challenge Fumo in the April 22 Democratic primary.

Fumo has represented Senate District 1 for the past 100 years despite numerous questions about his finances.

Fumo is scheduled to go on trial this year on federal charges that he misused Senate staff and two charities for personal and political gain, the newspaper reports.

Anne Dicker has already announced plans to run against Fumo. The Inquirer is reporting that Philadelphia City Councilman and Controller Joseph C. Vignola may also enter the Democratic primary against Fumo.

Montco freshman state reps seek reelection

Two freshman state House members have announced they will seek second terms.

The Times-Herald in Norristown reports that Republicans Jay Moyer (70th Dist.) and Mike Vereb (150th Dist.) will attempt to keep their respective seats this year.

Moyer is a longtime fixture on the Montgomery County political scene.

Vereb is relatively new to politics, after a distinguished career in law enforcement.

Like the rest of the Freshman 50 in the state House, neither Moyer nor Vereb have much to write home about during the first term, although both did get bills passed last year, which is more than some veteran lawmakers can say.

Both voted in favor of the property tax elimination plan before the House Tuesday, so that should give them some goodwill with voters.

No Democrats have announced for either seat yet, but don't be surprised if challengers emerge, especially against Moyer, who narrowly won his race in 2006.

A welcome to 'Open Mike'

I'd like to direct your attention to one of the newest members of the blogosphere.

Open Mike is the eclectic mix of posts from a colleague at The Mercury who wishes to remain anonymous. I wish I had thought of that when I launched my blog in December 2005.

You'll find an interesting mix of odd stories, personal reflections and tirades about Philadelphia sports teams at the blog.

From Open Mike's initial post:
In our Web-loving world, it seems as if everyone is sharing their opinions on-line. So why not me? I love to write, but doing a regular column for The Mercury Sunday edition had become very time consuming.

Having my own blog is a great opportunity to keep writing, and to possibly write about subjects I wouldn't tackle in a column. A few paragraphs will do nicely, as opposed to writing enough to fill an 18-inch space in the Sunday Living section.

So welcome to my blog, Open Mike, as I add my name to the growing list of Mercury bloggers: Tony Phyrillas, Nancy March, Diane Hoffman, Don Seeley and Chris March.

You want bipartisanship? You got it

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 385-35 Tuesday to approve the $146 billion economic stimulus package.

This might have been the closest thing to a unanimous bipartisan vote since the U.S. Congress voted to declare war on Japan after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Another name for the economic stimulus plan might be the "Incumbent Protection Act of 2008" As the U.S. heads into (or already is) in a recession, who in Congress is going to vote against "free money" for nearly everyone?

The Associated Press reports that 216 Democrats and 169 Republicans supported the tax rebate program. Voting no were 10 Democrats and 25 Republicans.

Here's how the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation voted:

Democrats — Altmire, Y; Brady, Y; Carney, Y; Doyle, Y; Fattah, Y; Holden, Y; Kanjorski, Y; Murphy, Patrick, Y; Murtha, Y; Schwartz, Y; Sestak, Y.

Republicans — Dent, Y; English, Y; Gerlach, Y; Murphy, Tim, Y; Peterson, Y; Pitts, Y; Platts, Y; Shuster, Y.

If only the rest of the issues before Congress could be resolved so easily.

Teacher Strike Capital of the United States

Teachers in the Downingtown School District in affluent Chester County are walking the picket line today, forcing 12,000 students to miss school.

The teachers, who make an average salary of $59,000 a year for nine months of work, rejected pay increases of 4.4, 4.5, 4.5 and 4.6 percent over the next four years. The current top salary for Downingtown teachers is $81,815.

The teachers' union said the pay raises are an insult. The pay hikes show that the school board doesn't respect the teachers, according to union leaders.

If that's the case, where do I get in line for a similar insult? Is there a worker out there would wouldn't jump up and down to an offer of an 18 percent pay raise over the next four years?

The strike has forced parents of 5,000 kindergarten through fifth grade students to scramble to find day care for their children.

The teachers will eventually be forced back to work under Pennsylvania law, but the 21 days that they can legally strike will be made up over the summer. The teachers will get paid regardless. Parents who miss work or those who have to pay for day care will never get that money back.

The West Chester Daily Local News puts the whole thing into perspective in an editorial today.

The losers are the students, the parents and the taxpayers. Find out more about why Pennsylvania leads the nation in teacher strikes at Stop Teacher Strikes in Pennsylvania.

Democrats defeat plan to eliminate property tax

Democrats in the state House of Representatives earlier today voted down the amendment by Rep. Sam Rohrer, R-Berks, to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania.

The vote was 47 "yes" and 148 "no" on the amendment, which was the only way Rohrer could get House Bill 1275 on the floor for debate. The majority of "no" votes came from Democrats. You can do the math. There are 102 Democrats in the House and only 10 supported House Bill 1275.

Voters now have all the ammunition they need to launch a 2006-style clean sweep of the House.

When it comes to voting themselves a middle-of-the-night pay raise, House Democrats fall over themselves to vote yes. But when it comes to eliminate property taxes for Pennsylvania homeowners, House Democrats said no.

You can say "no" to your local legislator on April 22.

Rep. David Levdansky must be defeated

Who is David Levdansky and why is he working so hard to prevent property tax relief for Pennsylvania homeowners?

Voters in the 39th House District (parts of Allegheny County and Washington counties) should oust Rep. Levdansky in 2008. Nobody in the House this side of Democratic Majority Leader Bill DeWeese has worked as hard to prevent the elimination of school property taxes than Levdansky.

The 22-year career politician rose from obscurity to become chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee in 2007 after Democrats won a 1-seat majority in the state House.

Levdansky has spend most of 2007 preventing serious consideration of House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007. He even came up with his own "tax relief" bill, something known as House Bill 1600, which would temporarily lower property taxes while permanently raising the state sales and/or income taxes.

I watched Levdansky and Rep. Sam Rohrer, R-Berks, debate House Bill 1275 on PCN Monday and I'm amazed that someone as educated as Levdansky (he has three degrees, according to his Web site) could come across as so dense.

Is Levdansky pretending to be a blockhead or is the money special interests groups are dangling in front of him to prevent the elimination of school property taxes clouded his judgment?

If you live in the Clairton City, Elizabeth-Forward, Ringgold, South Park or West Jefferson Hills school districts, a major reason your school taxes are so high is because people like Levdansky are blocking the best chance in decades to eliminate property taxes.

I said in an earlier post that the ouster of DeWeese is priority No. 1 to clear the bottleneck in the do-nothing state Legislature. The ouster of Rep. Levdansky would also go a long way to removing roadblocks to the elimination of property taxes for all Pennsylvania homeowners.

The primary election is April 22. The general election is Nov. 4. A vote against Levdansky is a vote for the elimination of school property taxes in Pennsylvania.

Monday, January 28, 2008

DeWeese should be No. 1 target for defeat in 2008

One man stands in the way of property tax relief in Pennsylvania. One man stands in the way of reforming state government.

His name is H. William DeWeese, Democratic Majority Leader in the state House of Representatives.

The ouster of DeWeese would open the flood gate for many of the reforms needed to improve Pennsylvania government.

DeWeese is the last of the dinosaurs who have blocked the passage of meaningful legislation for decades.

Pennsylvania voters got rid of the No. 1 and No. 2 Republican leaders in the state Senate in 2006 by voting out David "Chip" Brightbill and Robert Jubelirer. Voters also knocked off the No. 2 leader of the Democrats in the House, Mike Veon.

The No. 1 Republican in the House, John Perzel, won re-election from his gerrymandered home district, but was ousted from the powerful post as Speaker of the House (with the help of reform-minded Republicans).

The only "leader" who survived was Bill DeWeese, who has spend the past 32 years in Harrisburg.

The ouster of DeWeese is a top priority for anyone who wants to see an end to the status quo politics of Harrisburg. DeWeese is the main stumbling block to reforming the Legislature. He must go.

For that to happen, we need to rely on the voters of the 50th House District in Greene, Fayette and Washington counties. Tainted by the 2005 pay raise scandal, DeWeese barely won re-election in 2006. He defeated Republican Greg Hopkins by a mere 1,041 votes despite outspending Hopkins by a huge margin. DeWeese even lost his home county of Greene.

DeWeese is now embroiled in one of the biggest corruption scandals in Pennsylvania history. Despite his tainted reputation and inability to show any leadership in the House, DeWeese vows to stay as House Majority Leader for the rest of 2008 and seek re-election to his House seat.

A grand jury is investigating millions of dollars in bonuses given to legislative staffers. DeWeese has already fired seven of his staff members who have been linked to the so-called "Bonusgate" investigation. Attorney General Tom Corbett is looking into whether the bonuses were illegally tied to work performed on political campaigns.

FreedomWorks backs property tax elimination

This is an e-mail from FreedomWorks endorsing House Bill 1275. It's not too late to contact your state legislators and demand the elimination of property taxes.
What would school property tax elimination mean to you? School Property Taxes will be debated this week in Harrisburg. Two bills will only provide minor, temporary relief while raising other taxes.

HB 1275 will provide permanent school property tax elimination. The bill will also provide spending controls to control school spending.

HB 1275 will expand the sales tax to other services which are not currently taxed. But there will be no increase in the sales tax rate. HB 1275 will also have a net increase of 0.3% of the state income tax, but it will eliminate the school local income tax and other nuisance taxes.

How will this impact you? Check out the Property Tax Calculator provided by the Pennsylvania Taxpayer Cyber Coalition (PTCC) which accounts for all the effects of this change. Go to:

To contact your State Representative go to:

Type in your Zip +4 and click on your State Representative for contact information including email.

Tell them that you want real, permanent school property tax reform now and to support HB 1275.

Joe Hilliard,
Field Coordinator - FreedomWorks PA
Also check out today's edition of The Mercury for an editorial on property taxes.

Also of interest is this editorial, "Voices getting louder in call to eliminate property taxes for good," from Sunday's edition of The Mercury.

The Extreme Makeover of Ed Rendell

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting op-ed piece over the weekend about the political evolution of Gov. Ed Rendell by Jerry Bowyer, chief economist of BenchMark Financial Network and a CNBC contributor.

Like me, Bowyer had high hopes when Gov. Rendell was elected governor, but reality soon reared its ugly head. Rendell make lots of promises in 2002 about moving Pennsylvania in a new direction, but quickly turned into the typical tax-and-spend liberal when he became governor.

Bowyer criticizes Rendell's economic and health care proposals.

Bowyer is especially disappointed in Rendell's energy initiatives, which Bowyer says make no sense for Pennsylvania.

"Pennsylvania had given to Mr. Rendell everything it had that he wanted. I only wish I could say that he did the same for it," Bowyer writes.

Read, "Extreme Makeover" at the WSJ's Web site.

'Laws Optional for Rendell, Political Elite'

From the latest e-mail newsletter sent today by DemocracyRisingPA:
One glaring problem of the pay raise and other scandals is the arrogant attitude of political leaders that the Constitution and the laws they enact for ordinary citizens don't apply to themselves.

He'll Drink to That. Last week Gov. Ed Rendell provided another example of this attitude in an interview with KDKA radio's Marty Griffin. The two were talking about the potential effect on neighborhood taverns and restaurants of the newly enacted 10% drink tax in Allegheny County, which supports public transportation. Hear the interview at and click on "Marty Talks to Gov. Rendell-EXCLUSIVE" on the right side.

Rendell sought to allay the fears of neighborhood taverns and small restaurants in the land of the Whiskey Rebellion by making an astounding admission about enforcement of Philadelphia's drink tax:

Rendell: "In the neighborhood taverns where, you know, it might have had an effect, let me say we have selective enforcement."

Griffin: "You have selective enforcement. What do you mean, sir?"

Rendell: "We don't quite enforce in the neighborhood taverns as well as we do in the big hotels and restaurants."

Griffin: "You look the other way, sir?"

Rendell: "You can say that."

Defending selective enforcement, Rendell acknowledged the Constitution's "uniformity clause" , which requires all taxes to be applied the same on everyone wherever a tax is imposed. But bizarrely, Rendell then claimed that because it's unconstitutional to have a law that treats the same kinds of businesses differently, he simply decided to ignore the Constitution.

"We put most of our enforcement resources where we're going to get our biggest return, and that's in the big restaurants and hotels downtown," Rendell told Griffin.

Among the many problems of selective enforcement is that it can turn honest people into criminals. It is a crime to collect a tax and fail to give it to the government that imposes it.

Questions for Rendell:

If a tax is not going to be transmitted to Allegheny County (or any other government that imposes a tax), why should citizens pay it? Who gets the money?
If the tax is supposed to support public transportation in Allegheny County, what happens when public transportation d oesn't get the tax money? Does Allegheny County call on state taxpayers for more support?
What does a local bar have to do to get enforcement officers to look the other way?

Speaking of the Constitution. Here's the oath all public officials take: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity." Article VI, Section 3 .

Sometimes you wonder whether the public officials who take an oath to obey the Constitution have actually read it. Recently a DR Fan asked Rep. Martin Causer, R-McKean, whether he had attended legislative session on the first Tuesday of January this year, as required by the Constitution.

According to the fan, Causer said he was told he didn't have to show up for session and wondered what the point would be since they wouldn't do anything even if he had been there. Last week, DR called Causer to remind him of Article II, Section 4 and offered to talk with him about it. Causer didn't return the call.

Of course, Causer wasn't alone. On the first Tuesday of January this year, only 7 out of 203 Representatives showed up for work, and only 17 of 50 Senators showed up.


If the Constitution says they have to be there, why can't they also do some work instead of continuing their two-month, all-expenses-paid vacations? Where's the new open records law we were promised in January, for example?
Did Causer take an oath to obey Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, Minority Leader Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, Speaker Dennis O'Brien, R-Phila., or the Constitution?

What's so galling is that these are the very people to whom we have given the power to change the law if they, or we, don't like it. They, and only they, can propose to amend the Constitution and enact different laws if they think current laws are unfair.

But they don't do that. Instead, they arrogantly violate their oaths.

Have they no integrity? Have they no shame?

Why do those who still have integrity and feel the shame of dishonesty sit by and let such things happen? Why don't they stand up and raise hell?
For more on DemocracyRisingPA and its efforts to reform state government, visit its Web site at

Taxpayers' group to legislators: 'We will be watching'

The Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition, made up of 26 organizations across Pennsylvania, sent this brief e-mail to every member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this morning as the House resumes its debate on tax relief measures.
Dear Honorable Representative,

You have some very important choices to make this week.

You can choose between permanent, equitable property tax and education finance reform for your constituents through House Bill 1275, or…

You can choose another worthless, temporary, recycled Act 1 approach to "relief" with House Bills 1600 and 1489.

You can choose between doing your job as a true representative for the welfare and the will of your constituents and all of the homeowners of Pennsylvania, or…

You can choose to bend to the marching orders of your leadership and the lobbyists and ignore the wishes of the people you represent.

The choice is yours.

The voters of Pennsylvania are watching and know the difference.

The voters of Pennsylvania are watching and will not be deceived again.

The members and supporters of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition and the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations respectfully request that you embrace compromise, set aside partisan politics, do what is right for the people of Pennsylvania and, above all, choose wisely.

We will be watching.

David Baldinger
Administrator, Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition
Member and Spokesperson, Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations
Reading, PA
Also check out today's edition of The Mercury for this editorial about property taxes.

Also check out, "Voices getting louder in call to eliminate property taxes for good," from Sunday edition of The Mercury.

Jim Matthews on YouTube

If you need a good laugh, Montgomery County Commissioner Jim Matthews, the Republican turncoat, can be heard on YouTube proclaiming how popular he is with his subjects.

The 1 minute, 50 second sound snippet is from a recent radio interview.

Listen to "King James III on His Highness's Popularity" by following this link.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Somebody is lying about property tax relief

I read four stories the other day in a Berks County newspaper. See if you can pick out a common theme.

The first, "Preliminary Antietam schools budget calls for higher taxes," is about my local school district, which has raised property taxes every year since Gov. Ed Rendell came to office promising to ease the property tax burden on Pennsylvania homeowners. More on that later.

The next article was "Exeter schools budget calls for 7.8 percent tax hike." I then jumped to "Gov. Mifflin budget would raise taxes" and then read, "Boyertown schools preliminary budget shows tax hike."

All four articles were published the same day. Four school districts. Four preliminary budgets approved. Four significant property tax increases. How can this be?

Gov. Rendell promised to reduce property taxes standing on his head. That's what he told voters in 2002 when he first ran. He then promised Pennsylvania residents that the approval of 51,000 slot machines would bring tax relief. That was in 2004. The following year, he promised that the passage of Act 72 would finally put a stop to runaway property tax increases. The year after that, Rendell promised that Act 1 was the final line in the sand when it comes to those school property taxes.

"This day is a major victory for Pennsylvanians who have fought for decades to have their property taxes cut," Rendell said as he signed Act 1 into law in June 2006. "Every homeowner in Pennsylvania will not only get significant reduction, but they will finally get a say in future tax increases. This bill represents a victory of the possible over politics-as-usual."

What planet is this guy living on? It's been almost two years since the "historic" property tax cuts Rendell promised us and almost every school district in Pennsylvania is raising property taxes, not lowering them.

Even the $1 billion in property tax relief the governor promised would materialize from the casino revenues is a sucker's bet. Some homeowners will get as little as $33 back this year from the casino revenues. Others may see $100 to $200.

Since Rendell signed the casino legislation in July 2004, property taxes have risen dramatically for most Pennsylvania homeowners. Whatever refund money is coming back from the state has already been gobbled up by the local school districts. And then some.

Rendell's promise to give taxpayers a say in future property tax hikes under Act 1 was as hollow as Rendell's initial pledge to cut property taxes by 30 percent standing on his head.

Act 1, which was heralded by Rendell and House Democrats as historic tax relief, is another cruel hoax on Pennsylvania taxpayers. There are no controls over school district spending. How can school districts justify tax hikes of nearly 8 percent when the rate of inflation is under 3 percent?

"School boards will still be able to raise property taxes each year to keep up with inflation — and even more in many communities — but sensible and fair voter controls mean that taxpayers will now have a direct say in the most extreme tax increases," Rendell said in a press release last June. Apparently, the governor's Education Department didn't get a copy of the news release.

Rendell promoted Act 1 as a measure that would give taxpayers greater control over future school tax increases. It's not happening. All 210 school districts that applied for a waiver from the cap in 2007 were granted the exemption by the state. In Berks County, 16 of 18 school districts were granted exemption from seeking voter approval to raise school taxes beyond the inflationary index last year.

Should I believe what Rendell says or the tax bill I'm going to get in the mail soon from my local school district? Somebody is lying. There's a reason Rendell is known as "Fast Eddie."

Every scheme Rendell and the Legislature have come up with over the past five years has failed. The latest, House Bill 1600, is another sham. The only solution to the property tax burden is the elimination of school property taxes. Everything else is a slap in the face for Pennsylvania's beleaguered homeowners.

It's too late to punish Rendell for his dishonesty on the property tax issue. He's safely in office until 2010. But all 203 members of the state House of Representatives and 25 members of the state Senate face the voters this year.

It's time to send a clear message to the political aristocracy in Harrisburg. You have one last chance to eliminate property taxes by passing House Bill 1275 or we, the voters, will do away with your job.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gerlach aide gets GOP nod to run for Rubley seat

Chester County Republicans may have a primary fight on their hands as they prepare to defend the 157th House seat held by Rep. Carole Rubley.

The party has endorsed Guy Ciarrocchi, who works for Congressman Jim Gerlach, R-6th District, but the runner-up, a longtime friend of Rubley, may challenge Ciarrocchi in the April 22 primary.

That's what Tredyffrin Supervisor Judy DiFilippo hinted to reporter Dan Kristie of the West Chester Daily Local News.

Rubley has held that 157th House seat for the past 16 years and it looked like her successor was going to be DiFilippo, a friend and former Rubley staffer.

Ciarrocchi, who joined Gerlach's staff in January 2007, came out of nowhere to win the party backing in a three-way contest at Thursday's gathering of Chester County GOP leaders.

It took two rounds of voting, but Ciarrocchi emerged with 64 percent of the vote from the county Republican Committee. DiFilippo ended up with 33 percent of the vote.

But she told the newspaper, "I'm considering my options."

A DiFilippo candidacy would put Rubley in a tough spot. Does she back the party choice or a longtime friend?

Kucinich drops out, nobody notices

Democrat Dennis Kucinich quit the presidential race Friday. Hold the applause.

Kucinich, who attracted 0 percent of the Democratic Party vote so far, is dropping out so he can try to keep his current job, congressman from Ohio.

Kucinich, 61, is facing four challengers in the Democratic congressional primary March 4, according to The Associated Press. Rival Joe Cimperman has been critical of Kucinich for focusing too much time outside of his district while campaigning for president, the news service reports.

"I won't be president, but I can continue to fight for these important issues as the United States congressman representing the community that is first in my heart, Cleveland, Ohio," Kucinich told the AP.

What did Kucinich bring to the presidential race? Let's see. Kucinich, aka "Spaceman," proposed creating a cabinet-level Department of Peace, backed Hillary Clinton's universal health care plan and wants to see a gay marriage amendment added to the Constitution. He also pushed for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney.

I'm sure the folks back on Ohio who are struggling to make ends meet are glad Kucinich championed their cause.

As for me, I'll miss Elizabeth Kucinich the most.

Jim Matthews, Republican pariah

Pariah: An outcast. Any person that is generally despised or avoided.

Jim Matthews, the Republican turncoat who made a power-sharing deal with Democrat Joe Hoeffel, is being shunned in Montgomery County GOP circles, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. (I thought only the Amish were into shunning.)

I said this months ago. Matthews might as well change his registration to Democrat and stop pretending he's a Republican. No self-respecting Republican wants to be in the same room as Matthews, who turned his back on 85,000 voters who elected a GOP majority of Bruce Castor and Matthews in November.

Matthews helped elect Hoeffel as vice chairman of the commissioners' board and elected Hoeffel as chairman of the county Election Board. Most recently, Matthews gave Hoeffel the county's seat on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Hoeffel has used his new-found power to hire political cronies to lucrative county jobs. This is the same Joe Hoeffel who criticized the GOP-controlled commissioners' board in 2007 for political patronage. (I guess it's different when you get to hire your friends, Joe.)

Although Matthews has been kicked off the 50-member Montgomery County Republican Party Executive Committee, there's not much else GOP leaders can do to punish him ... other than avoiding him.

"Shunning is the only option available to us," GOP Committeeman Brian Miles told the newspaper. "You hope Jim comes to his senses and realizes the devastating impact this will have on the Republican Party in Montgomery County."

Here's a prediction. Matthews will find himself further isolated when the county party ousts current Chairman Ken Davis, a longtime Matthews ally. There's also a movement to remove Bob Asher from his post as a Republican National Committeeman. Asher is the money behind Matthews.

And sooner or later Matthews will realize that his power-sharing agreement with Hoeffel, termed "a deal with the devil" by some, will bite Matthews on the rear end. Hoeffel is using Matthews to get what he wants. Eventually, Hoeffel will go too far and Matthews will realize what a big mistake he made.

Matthews' only option then is to come crawling back to Bruce Castor for help in putting the megalomaniac Hoeffel in check.

Chester County GOP leader has a few regrets

Chester County Republicans learned a hard lesson in 2006 when they sleepwalked through the election and lost two legislative seats that had been in Republican hands for decades.

Now the party faces the daunting task of retaking the seats.

Chester County Republican Party Chairman Joseph "Skip" Brion, the man asleep at the wheel in 2006, is making all kinds of noise about how the party will have to take back the seats it gave away two years ago.

The Daily Local News in West Chester has an update today on the pending races for the the 156th House seat and the 19th Senate seat.

"Nobody's going to get a bye this year," Brion told the newspaper.

Brion said the 2008 election is a must-win for the county party, according to the newspaper.

The two races that will get the most attention are the 156th House seat and the 19th District seat in the Senate.

For the House seat, Shannon Royer will take on state Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith, the Democrat who narrowly beat him in 2006 to give Democrats a 1-seat majority in the state House.

In the 19th Senate contest, the GOP will run political newcomer Steve Kantrowitz of Malvern, a former two-star U.S. Navy admiral, against Democratic incumbent Sen. Andy Dinniman, who is seeking a full four-year term after winning a special election in 2006.

Lawmakers working hard or hardly working?

The Mercury takes a shot on its editorial page today at the Pennsylvania Legislature, which has been in session for less than a week so far in January.

This is the most expensive state legislature in the country, but between an extended holiday vacation and a lengthy Martin Luther King Jr. vacation, the lawmakers haven't had much time to conduct the people's business in 2008.

Here's the editorial as part of the newspaper's weekly Roses and Thorns:
THORNS to the state House of Representatives for failing to stay at their jobs in Harrisburg and get things accomplished. The legislators have worked all of four days this month since returning from the lengthy holiday break. Last Thursday, they even cut out early because of some snowflakes on the ground. This week, they’re on another break. House members are quick to point out that they are “always” working -- meeting with constituents, touring their districts, attending meetings. But being busy is not the same as hard work. We suggest, as we have so many times in the past, that Pennsylvania would benefit from legislators who worked at legislating in Harrisburg instead of being seen and heard at home.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

SE Pennsylvania legislators who do not support property tax reform

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is scheduled to return Monday to take up the issue of property tax reform. Most of the discussion will be on House Bill 1600, promoted by House Democrats, but condemned by taxpayer groups as a warmed-over version of the failed Act 1.

Legislation that should be front and center is House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007.

I listed 45 members of the Pennsylvania House who are co-sponsors of House Bill 1275 previously.

Since there are 203 members of the House, the vast majority of lawmakers have yet to be heard on HB 1275, which is endorsed by more than two dozen taxpayer groups across the state.

Below is a list of legislators from Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties who are not on the list of HB 1275 co-sponsors.

If you recognize any of the names below, you need to contact them today and ask them why they are not supporting the effort to elimination school property taxes.

Since they won't stand with taxpayers, remind your representatives that you will not be voting for them when they stand for re-election this year.

Here are lawmakers from Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties who do not support the elimination of property taxes:


David Kessler (D-130)
Doug Reichley (R-134)

Thomas Killion (R-168)
Duane Milne (R-167)
Chris Ross (R-158)
Carole Rubley (R-157)

Lawrence Curry (D-154)
Michael Gerber (D-148)
Robert Godshall (R-53)
Kate Harper (R-61)
George Kenney Jr. (R-170)
Daylin Leach (D-149)
Kathy Manderino (D-194)
Jay Moyer (R-70)
Thomas Murt (R-152)
Josh Shapiro (D-153)
Rick Taylor (D-151)
Mike Vereb (R-150)

Paolino enters 17th Senate District race

A Delaware County municipal official wants to make the leap to the state Senate in the 17th District.

Radnor Township Commissioner Lisa Paolino has announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 17th Senatorial District now held by Sen. Connie Williams, who is not seeking re-election.

Paulino has to overcome several major hurdles to win the GOP nomination. In addition to the district being mostly in Montgomery County, she faces a two tough opponents, one of whom is better known to voters and the other of whom has built a large campaign war chest already.

The other announced Republican candidates for the 17th District seat are Montgomery County Sheriff John Durante, who is a proven vote-getter, and Lower Merion Commissioner Lance Rogers, an attorney who bragged in a recent press release that he's already raised $100,000 for the Senate race.

The 17th Senate District includes the Delaware County municipalities of Haverford and Radnor and the Montgomery County municipalities of Bridgeport, Conshohocken, East Norriton, Lower Merion, Narberth, Norristown, Plymouth, Upper Merion and West Conshohocken.

Paulino was the first woman in Radnor history elected to a full four-year term as Commissioner in 1999. She has served as vice president of the Board since 2003.

If elected to the state Senate, Paolino says she wants to send a clear and concise message to Harrisburg: "Lower our taxes, streamline our government, recruit employers for jobs in our area and preserve Open Space."

Given the makeup of the 17th District, Paolino said another key for her will be to help redevelop blighted neighborhoods, provide affordable housing and healthcare, assist area seniors, encourage excellence in education and improve the state's transportation systems.

Paolino says she has "consistently advocated transparent, open and participatory government with solid constituent services."

Paolino, a single mother of two grown children, is a graduate of Villanova University with more than 20 years of professional business experience, most recently as vice president of operations and marketing for Mace Securities.

Read more about Paulino in The Main Line Times.

State Rep. Daylin Leach, D-149th District, is planning to leave his House seat to run for William's Senate seat on the Democratic ticket.

Lehigh County Republican seeks 187th House seat

The Reading Eagle is reporting that a Republican from Lehigh County is seeking the GOP nomination to replace Rep. Carl Mantz, who is giving up the 187th state House seat after one term.

The 187th District covers parts of Lehigh and Berks County. It was held by Republican Paul Semmel for years, but Semmel made the mistake of voting for the July 2005 pay raise, taking the money and then defending the middle-of-the-night pay grab.

That opened the door for Mantz to step in as a reform candidate. But after one year in Harrisburg, Mantz called it quits. He'll finish his term, but doesn't want to return to the Capitol after 2008.

Enter Gary Day of Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County. The 41-year-old has already quit his job with Service Electric Cablevision to concentrate full time on winning a seat in the state Legislature.

The three main issues Day is running on, according to the newspaper, are: open space preservation, fiscal concerns and health care.

"This district, whether you're in Longswamp Township or Heidelberg Township in Lehigh County, has a similar rural character," Day told the Reading Eagle. "Most of the people in the district of any party are here for a reason — that’s to preserve the rural character."

Day wants to slow down state spending and push for tax reform.

"It would be very hard for me to vote for tax increases," Day told the newspaper. You better believe voters in the 187th District will hold Day to that pledge if he makes it to Harrisburg.

Day told reporter Mary Young that he favors House Bill 1275, introduced by Rep. Samuel E. Rohrer, R-Berks, although he has some questions about the plan to eliminate property taxes.

If miracles happens, the Legislature will approve HB 1275 before Day gets to Harrisburg.

Archie Follweiler, a Kutztown Realtor who lost to Mantz in the November 2006 election, is planning to run for the 187th House seat on the Democratic ticket.

Miss America has fallen on hard times

I haven't watched the Miss America Pageant in years. I'm not alone. What had been an American institution, a time when the entire family gathered around the TV to watch the competition, has sunk to near oblivion.

After the networks dropped the show because of anemic ratings, CMT (Country Music Television) picked it up, but even for cable, the viewership was so low, CMT dropped it.

The latest attempt to resurrect the pageant is on TLC (The Learning Channel), which has turned the competition into a reality show. It could be worse. The pageant could have ended up on one of TLC's sister channels, like Animal Planet.

The promos say, "The Pageant like you've never seen it before." If it involves some sort of mud wrestling, I'm there.

The Miss America Pageant will be televised Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. on TLC. The event is taking place at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

Based on these Associated Press photos by Jae C. Hong of preliminary competition, I might give Miss America another chance. In case you want to root for one of these contestants, from top to bottom: Miss Michigan, Miss Washington, Miss Nevada and Miss Virginia.

Another political crony hired for Montco job by Hoeffel

Isn't it odd that only qualified applicants for jobs with Montgomery County seem to be former campaign workers for Democratic Commissioner Joe Hoeffel or unsuccessful Democratic Party candidates?

Hoeffel, with support of Jim Matthews, continues to stack the county payroll with political cronies.

The latest is Edward F. Cheri, last year's unsuccessful Democratic candidate for sheriff.

The Times-Herald in Norristown reports that the county salary board, under the chairmanship of Joe Hoeffel, voted Wednesday to hire Cheri as a deputy coroner at a yearly salary of $36,338 plus benefits.

Cheri is the second Democrat who lost a countywide election last year joining the county payroll in as many weeks, according to reporter Margaret Gibbons. On top of that, two Hoeffel campaign workers were hired for lucrative county jobs earlier this month.

The salary board vote was 4-1, with Republican Commissioners' Chairman James R. Matthews, Democratic Commissioner Joseph M. Hoeffel III, Democratic Controller Diane Morgan and Democratic Coroner Dr. Walter I. Hofman voting in favor of the hiring.

Republican Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. cast the lone dissenting vote.

Morgan, who last year pledged to be an independent watchdog when she was campaigning for controller, maintained that her vote was not partisan, according to Gibbons.

Instead, Morgan said, Hofman had advised her that Cheri, with his background in law enforcement, was well qualified for the job.

(Since when does a deputy coroner need a background in law enforcement?)

Two weeks ago, the salary board signed off on the hiring of Kelbin Carolina as a senior accountant in the controller’s office at a yearly salary of $43,241 plus benefits, according to Gibbons.

Carolina, a Lower Providence Democratic committeeman, was the party's unsuccessful candidate for treasurer in 2006.

Castor also voted against the Carolina hiring.

It appears Bruce Castor is the only Montgomery County official looking out for the best interest of the taxpayers, whether they be Democrats or Republicans.

PA GOP: Hillary Clinton joins Rendell's 'Fave Five'

What does the Pennsylvania Republican Party think of Gov. Ed Rendell endorsing Hillary Clinton for president?

Here's the latest press release from GOP headquarters:

Ed Rendell and Hillary Clinton share a lot in common – Especially their close friendship with corrupt Democrat fundraiser Norman Hsu

HARRISBURG – Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr. was not surprised to see that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was endorsing Hillary Clinton's run for the Democrat Party’s nomination. The Clintons and Ed Rendell each have a weak spot for high taxes, socialized taxpayer-funded health care and indicted Democrat political fundraisers.

"Hillary Clinton's acceptance of Gov. Ed Rendell's endorsement is an affirmation that she believes in big government, higher taxes, politics as usual, pay raises, and taxpayer-funded socialized healthcare," Gleason said. "While Hillary Clinton and Rendell share their love of big government and win-at-all-costs political attacks and pandering, it is not surprising Hillary Clinton doesn't mind being part Rendell's list of favorite people. A list of the Governor's good friends includes a scandal-ridden Democrat House Majority Leader, a former television news anchor who allegedly assaulted a police officer, a person who funneled millions in tax dollars to a film company in the shadows, and an indicted Democrat fundraiser named Norman Hsu. Ironically, Hsu is a close political ally of Clinton.

"I hope the media points out Gov. Ed Rendell's relationship to shady donors and Sen. Hillary Clinton. It appears that both Gov. Rendell and Sen. Clinton have no qualms about taking money from a thieving low-life as long as he signs the check with enough zeros."

Remember, Norman Hsu, described by the Governor as 'one of the ten best people he ever met', is a criminal who made millions of dollars scamming Americans while also serving as a big fundraiser for Sen. Clinton and the Democrat party. Reportedly, Hsu defrauded investors out of $1 million in a latex glove scam in 1989. Hsu plead no contest to the crime and skipped town before the sentencing. He remained a fugitive from California authorities for the last 15 years, despite the fact that he hosted many high-profile fundraisers for Democrat candidates around the state.

Prison guard who posed in Playboy gets her job back

You have to hand it to Heather Hull. The woman loves her job as a prison guard. Why else would she go through all the trouble to get her $41,000 a year job back after she was fired last April after the warden found out that Ms. Hull had posed in Playboy magazine.

It's not as bad as it sounds. The 29-year-old corrections officer (and aspiring model) was wearing clothes (a sexy, albeit fake prison guard uniform) when she appeared in the March 2007 issue of the magazine.

OK, it was probably more revealing than you'd want the inmates to see.

But I still don't get why inmates get the privilege of having Playboy magazine delivered to their cells.

Anyway, Ms. Hull was reinstated to her former position with the Berks County Prison, according to the Reading Eagle.

Ms. Hull worked with her union to get her job back. The case went to arbitration and the hearing officer recommended Ms. Hull be reinstated.

Although she's back guarding prisoners as of last week, Ms. Hull told the newspaper she was disappointed that she was not awarded back pay for the time she was out of work.

Arbitrator Charles Long said Hull did not besmirch the county's reputation by posing in a simulated correctional officer's uniform, according to the newspaper.

Long, however, said that Hull lacked good moral judgment when deciding to pose for the magazine, adding that correctional officers are held to a higher standard than average citizens, the newspaper said.

(Photo courtesy of Playboy Magazine © 2007 by Playboy. That's the first image used in the magazine. A second photo of Ms. Hull with her shirt open exposing her bustier is the one that probably got her into trouble with the warden.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ron Paul wins Berks GOP 'straw poll'

Something tells me this wasn't the result the Berks County Republican Party had in mind.

About 200 Berks County Republicans gathered this week to "caucus" on a potential presidential nominee.

The unofficial gathering came three months before voters get to actually pick their party nominee for president, but there's not much to do in Berks County in January, so why not get a bunch of people together and pretend to vote.

The results were a bit ... surprising.

Ron Paul, the Texas congressman, won the straw poll. That either means Ron Paul supporters packed the meeting or Berks County conservatives are having a hard time with the current GOP field.

The vote was all over the place.

Rep. Paul received 61 of the 193 votes cast during the informal presidential caucus, reports Mary Young of the
Reading Eagle

The event was well attended for a January evening at the Lessport Farmers Market with about 300 party faithful braving bitterly cold temperatures to participate in the straw poll and help the GOP get organized.

Mitt Romney finished second, another surprise considering Berks County Republicans are on the conservative side.

Of the 193 votes cast, 61 or 31.6 percent, went to Paul, according to Young.

According to the newspaper, the other candidates and their totals, were:

• Mitt Romney, 41 or 21.2 percent.
• Mike Huckabee, 36 votes or 18.7 percent.
• John McCain, 24 or 12.4 percent.
• Rudy Giuliani, 21 or 10.9 percent.
• Other candidates, 10 or 5.2 percent.

Berks County Republican Party Chairman Mark M. Gillen called the Jan. 22 event a success.

"Fully half of those standing in the room had never been to a GOP event before," Gillen told the newspaper. "For the first time in their political lives they had the opportunity to have input into a public presentation about the candidate of their choice."

Reformer seeks rematch against Rep. Seip

The Reading Eagle is reporting that Gary L. Hornberger is planning to challenge freshman Rep. Tim Seip for the 125th state House seat in Schuylkill and Berks counties.

Seip defeated Hornberger in 2006, but like so many members of the freshman class in the Legislature, Seip has accomplished little during his time in Harrisburg.

Hornberger believes he's the man to lead the fight for reform and property tax relief.

Those were the same issues Hornberger championed in 2006. Those are the issues where Seip is most vulnerable.

"People are not looking for property taxes to be reduced; they're looking for them to be eliminated," Hornberger told reporter Mary Young. "That would be my goal. We've got to find a better way to pay for public education."

Hornberger also criticized Seip for not delivering more open and accountable government, the newspaper reports.

"We need to have legislators who obey the state constitution," Hornberger told the newspaper. "The constitution says they're supposed to receive a salary and mileage reimbursement. That's all I'll take if I'm elected. No pension, no vehicle, no per diems."

Hornberger also told Young he will call for an independent audit of all legislative spending.

For more on "Citizen" Gary Hornberger, visit his Web site at

Our National Nightmare

The Dream Team or Our Long National Nightmare? You be the judge.

Is this the 2008 Democratic presidential ticket of Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Ed Rendell as vice president?

After all the damage Rendell has done to Pennsylvania over the past five years, do we really want to unleash him on the rest of the country?

Rendell endorsed Clinton Wednesday at a press conference in Philadelphia. Yawn. That might get her two more votes in Pennsylvania -- Ed and Midge Rendell.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Gerlach launches bid for fourth term in Congress

The Times-Herald in Norristown has a story today on Rep. Jim Gerlach kicking off his bid for a fourth term in Congress.

The Chester County Republican has struggled to win and then to hold the seat in each of his first three runs, but Gerlach is a survivor.

His chances of winning a fourth term have greatly improved. The Democratic Party hasn't been able to find a viable candidate to run against Gerlach this year. Gerlach has also moved away from President Bush on several issues and is now considered a moderate who can appeal to Democrats and independents.

Gerlach's top priorities are the economy, border security, energy independence, improving transportation systems, preserving open space and other environmental issues.

"We have our work cut out for us," Gerlach told the newspaper.

Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District covers parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

Read the full story on The Times-Herald Web site.

Are Pennsylvania teachers in it for the money?

An interesting op-ed piece in today's Daily Local News in West Chester that examines what many perceive as greed among teachers' unions in Pennsylvania.

The average teacher salary in Pennsylvania is $54,027 for nine months of work.

In the article, "Teaching isn't a 'for profit' profession," Exton resident Philip Bartholomeo recaps the controversy surrounding a threatened walkout by Downingtown Area School District teachers in Chester County if they don't get what they want in current contract talks.

Pennsylvania is one of only 13 states that allow teachers to strike.

Mr. Bartholomeo raises some good points in his op-ed:
"If you doubled salaries tomorrow, it would not materially change any test scores; in fact, the way you posture it, I would expect the energy crisis to be solved by the next graduating class. These kids are getting a fine education with the resources at hand now. Tell me something: When the student population decreases, will you be willing to reduce expenditures, or, will you be spinning the need to have a 10-to-1 student/teacher ratio."
He also wants to know why there is no competition in the education field and why public education costs rise much higher than the rate of inflation:
"What you need to do is get creative because the tired old issue of funding education by continual tax increases will not work. There is something wrong with the bigger picture. Maybe education should be opened to competition. Why shouldn't the taxpayers be given their tax money to choose where they educate their children. Why is it that Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that allows teachers to strike?"

Rep. Rick Taylor faces challenge from Montco assistant DA

Although the party has several state House seats to defend this year, Montgomery County Republicans have an opportunity to knock off a weak Democratic state lawmaker in Rep. Rick Taylor.

The Doylestown Intelligencer is reporting that Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Todd Stephens will run for the 151st House District seat held by Democrat Rick Taylor.

Not sure why a Bucks County newspaper is interested in Montgomery County, but that's another story.

Stephens, 36, of Horsham, told a gathering of supporters that he's the right man for the job: "I help people now, but I help them one person at a time," Stephens was quoted on the Intelligencer. "In Harrisburg, I can do more."

His law-and-order background would come in handy in Harrisburg, Stephens told his supporters.

"I've been enforcing the law for seven years. I certainly think I'm adequately prepared to help write them," the newspaper reported.

Rep. Taylor was in the right place at the right time in 2006 when he knocked off incumbent Republican Eugene McGill, who refused to drop out of the race despite the urging of Republican officials who thought McGill had too much baggage to run for re-election.

Taylor takes his marching orders from the party bosses in Harrisburg and has failed to deliver on his 2006 campaign promises.

Republicans are confident they can take back the 151st District seat, which covers Ambler and parts of Horsham, Montgomery Township, Lower Gwynedd, Upper Dublin and Abington.

Third newspaper backs elimination of property taxes

Following in the footsteps of The Mercury in Pottstown and The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, the Reading Eagle has called for the elimination of property taxes in Pennsylvania.

While the three newspapers differ on the best way to accomplish the goal, all three have run editorials recently saying the elimination of property taxes must be a priority for the state Legislature.

The Mercury supports House Bill 1275, which would eliminate property taxes in favor of an expanded sales tax.

The Patriot-News recommends a higher state income tax rate to replace property taxes.

The Reading Eagle supports a plan by state Sen. Michael O'Pake, D-Berks, to raise the state income taxes on a graduated basis starting with people who earn $100,000 or more.

The merits of each plan should be debated in the Legislature instead of the half-measures introduced by House Democrats (House Bill 1600 chief among them). The current plans would temporarily reduce property taxes while permanently raising other taxes. That is not property tax relief.

It's not what Pennsylvania homeowners want. Read the Reading Eagle editorial at the newspaper's Web site,