Friday, August 31, 2007
The $570,000 bonus figure for top PHEAA executives initially released included just the agency's management team. The new total includes bonus money paid to all staff in 2007 and has soared to $2.5 million, according to Eichelberger.
PHEAA is the Pennsylvania agency responsible for providing student loans to college students. While most of the agency's funding comes from investments, Pennsylvania taxpayers contribute $500 million a year to PHEAA.
"The patronage laden work force reaches a total of 2,574 employees," Eichelberger noted. "Defenders of PHEAA cite the good work of the agency and the management in particular to justify these bonuses, but a closer look reveals that when comparing the same nine-month period from last year to this, operating expenses have grown 70 percent faster than operating revenues, operating income is down and the agency's net assets are $11.5 million lower."
Eichelberger is outraged by the growing scandal, saying, "This mess is unfortunately what I have found all too often in Harrisburg. The legislature and many state agencies are bloated bureaucracies that have no regard whatsoever for the hard working people who pay their salaries. This is an embarrassment for Pennsylvania and I will do everything in my power to stop this abuse immediately."
PHEAA fought for two years to prevent release of expense records that showed the agency wasted nearly $900,000 on trips to resorts and spas and lavish gifts for its executives, board members and their spouses.
The bonuses to top executives have also been widely criticized. PHEAA's top executive, Richard E. Willey, received $180,857 in addition to his annual salary of $289,118. Bonuses of $113,514 each were awarded to Tim Guenther, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Brian Lecher, executive vice president of information technology and chief information officer; and James Preston, executive vice president of client relations and loan operations. Kelly Powell Logan, executive vice president of public service and marketing, received a $52,436 bonus. Guenther, Lecher and Preston earn annual salaries of $217,757 each; Logan's is $201,178.
PHEAA previously awarded $852,834 in bonuses in the 2005-06 fiscal year to Willey and six executive vice presidents.
The lack of oversight by members of the Legislature who make up the PHEAA board is scandalous. For a national perspective on the PHEAA mess, read Richard Vedder's article, "Ripping Off Taxpayers, Pennsylvania Style" at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity blog.
The following is a list of PHEAA board members, primarily incumbent state lawmakers: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald I. Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; J. Doyle 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; Roy Reinard; Sen. James J. Rhoades; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; A. William Schenck III; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson; and Rendell Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak.
Many of the career politicians listed above will seek re-election in 2008, as if you needed any more reasons to vote them out.
A major overhaul of the scandal-ridden agency is long overdue. It should start with all the top executives and should include replacement of all 20 board members. The foxes have been guarding the chicken coop long enough.
Additional oversight, including bills introduced by state Sen. John Rafferty and state Sen. Jane C. Orie, to require independent audits and a new way of appointing the PHEAA board, should be a priority when the Legislature returns in session.
(Cartoon by Randy Bish/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Hillary Clinton is returning $40,000 linked to Norman Hsu and trying to spin her way out of this mess by saying she gets so much money from so many people, it's hard to keep track of it. I can sympathise with Hillary. It's hard to account for that $52 million. Some of it may come from shady characters pardoned by her husband. That's just the Clinton way. Read more about Hill's Problem of Outsourcing Campaign Fundraising at The Hillary Project Web site.
Then there's the matter of campaign contributions from Mr. Hsu to Gov. Edward G. Rendell and U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak, a freshman from Delaware County. We're still waiting to see if these two will return the tainted money.
Republican Party of
Read Gleason's full statement at the Pennsylvania GOP's Web site.
John Micek of The Morning Call in Allentown has an update on Rendell's refusal (so far) to give the money back. Check out his blog at Capitol Ideas.
Evan Rendell's official house newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, is concerned about the governor's latest ethical lapse, running a story on its front page today saying Rendell will keep the suspect donations. Rendell should fit right in with a Clinton administration in 2008.
It's fascinating all the left-wing bloggers ignoring the growing Hillary Clinton scandal, choosing instead to focus on a Republican senator caught playing footsie under a men's room stall. Now that's a scandal, not how the nation's likely next president is financing her campaign with dirty money.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
If you still can't figure out why Hillary is not getting my vote, spend some time at The Hillary Project Web site, which had been reporting for years on news about the Clintons that the mainstream media is afraid to touch. Unlike so many Democrats, I do not suffer from amnesia about the Clinton years, a time of massive corruption, cronyism and law-breaking in the White House and appeasement of our enemies abroad.
If you're still not sure about whether Hillary Clinton is fit to become our next president, check out this editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about where Hillary Clinton is getting some of her campaign money to finance her run for the White House.
The editorial points out that Mrs. Clinton received $45,000 donations from six different members of one family. The father of the San Fransisco family reported annual income of $49,000. Makes you wonder how the miracle of donating $200,000 to the Clinton campaign occurred, doesn't it.
This is a must read. Do Democrats really want this unscrupulous woman representing their party? If you think the Bush administration has had ethical lapses, wait until the Clintons get back in the White House.
The original connection between Clinton's campaign funds and a fugitive named Norman Hsu appeared in The Los Angeles Times. The connection between Hsu and the generous California family of modest means was reported in The Wall Street Journal.
And it's not just Hillary Clinton who took campaign contributions from questionable sources. None other than Edward G. Rendell, governor of Pennsylvania, has been implicated in the growing scandal.
The Morning Call in Allentown reported today that Rendell has no intention of returning a $40,000 donation from Norman Hsu.
Reporter John Micek quotes Rendell as saying Norman Hsu "gave me that money legally. He hasn't been convicted of anything We'll see what the court system does. If the court sustains it, we'll give it back."
(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
The original story about the raids came from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Here's the AP's version:
Paper: House Democratic offices searched in probe of bonuses
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — State investigators looking into whether legislative employees were improperly used for campaign purposes searched the House Democratic Office of Legislative Research last week and seized records, a newspaper reported Thursday.
The Aug. 23 search was part of a probe into the activities of former state Rep. Michael Veon, D-Beaver, and whether public funds were spent on campaigns while Veon was the second-ranking House Democrat, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The paper, citing unnamed sources, said Veon and other Democratic activists, state workers and ex-lawmakers are being investigated by a grand jury.
State prosecutors have said the probe focuses on nearly $4 million that legislative staffers in both parties received in 2005 and 2006. House Democrats, who reclaimed control of the chamber in the 2006 election, awarded $2.4 million in bonuses, most of it handed out in the election year.
Kevin Harley, a spokesman for the attorney general, declined to comment on the search. He said his agency is investigating House and Senate legislative staff work by both parties, including the House Democratic research department.
"We are conducting an investigation into bonuses paid to legislative staff members, to determine whether the bonuses were paid for campaign work or for legitimate legislative business," Harley said Thursday.
Veon, the former Democratic whip who opened a lobbying firm after losing re-election last year, did not immediately respond to an e-mail and phone message left by The Associated Press at his Harrisburg office on Thursday.
He said in February his caucus' employees' bonuses were granted in "a very proper and legal way" and were not related to campaign work.
An aide to House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, referred a request for comment to caucus lawyers, who did not immediately respond Thursday.
House Republicans have said they followed a written policy in awarding bonuses and that none were given out for campaign activities. Senate Republicans, under new leadership, announced Jan. 31 they were halting the bonuses, and the other three caucuses followed suit shortly afterward.
The job responsibilities for legislative employees often include boosting lawmakers' public images or analyzing politically sensitive issues — work that has obvious value to a campaign — but Harley said it is illegal to campaign on state time, or use public equipment to do so.
In February 2006, state Rep. Jeff Habay, R-Allegheny, resigned after being sentenced to six to 12 months in jail for having aides perform campaign work on state time.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The biggest snub goes to Berks County District Attorney Mark C. Baldwin, a Republican who has been the top law enforcement officer in the county for the past 16 years.
The FOP is supporting his Democratic challenger John T. Adams, who worked for Baldwin from 1992-94 as an assistant district attorney.
The FOP is also backing attorney Tim Rowley for the one open seat on the Berks County Court of Common Pleas. Rowley, a Republican, won the Democratic nomination in May by 857 votes, but fell short of winning the Republican nomination by 182 votes. The winner was fellow Republican attorney Ron Stanko, a former Berks County Republican Party chairman.
Because judicial candidates can cross-file in both primaries, a Rowley-Stanko rematch will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The FOP is also recommending retention of Berks County Judge Jeffrey Schmehl.
But the big surprise is the FOP's rebuke of Baldwin. Incumbents usually get the support of the FOP because law officers have had a chance to work with them and build relationships. But the FOP is throwing its weight behind Adams, a little-known challenger who won the write-in nomination in May's Democratic primary.
"The collective opinion of the police officers that are members of our lodge is that a change is needed in the Office of District Attorney of Berks County and John T. Adams is the most qualified person to serve in that position," according to Joseph M. Brown, Lodge No. 71 president.
Baldwin was expecting to coast to easy re-election this year, especially when Democrats couldn't find a candidate to challenge the 16-year incumbent. With the GOP nomination a lock, Baldwin ran newspaper ads asking Democrats to write in his name so he could avoid a contest in the fall.
That didn't happen. Adams received enough write-in votes for the Democratic nomination. Political insiders tell me that disgruntled Republicans were among those supporting the write-in effort against Baldwin.
Baldwin, who has the lowest public profile of any district attorney in Southeastern Pennsylvania and doesn't like to deal with the media, has burned some bridges during his four terms in office.
Apparently, those bridges include the law enforcement community.
Baldwin has been locked in a feud with the City of Reading and its police department over money confiscated in a big drug bust. The city was expecting to reap the bulk of the benefits from the $1 million in seized money, but Baldwin decided to set up the District Attorney's Anti-Drug Fund and allow any police department in the county to apply for the money. Baldwin has been widely criticized by the Reading Eagle for his actions and is facing a possible lawsuit by the city, which wants to keep the $1 million.
In addition to D.A. and county judge races, the FOP also endorsed county commissioner candidates because the commissioners control the purse-strings. (There's even talk of forming a countywide police force in Berks, so you better believe the FOP wants a say in who makes that final determination.)
The FOP is recommending the election of Republican incumbent Mark C. Scott and GOP candidate Christian Leinbach for Berks County commissioner.
The odd man out is incumbent Democratic Commissioner Tom Gajewski, who was passed over for endorsement by the FOP in favor of Democratic newcomer Kevin S. Barnhardt.
Voters will elect three commissioners in November, with the top two vote-getters from one party forming majority control and the top vote-getter from the other party getting the third seat.
And in an unusual move, the FOP endorsed the Democratic candidate for Berks County Recorder of Deeds. Since the recorder of deeds spends all day shuffling paper around, one might wonder what the position has to do with law enforcement. The answer is absolutely nothing.
This appears to be a snub of the Republican candidate, John Fielding, who has worked in the public defenders' office in Berks for a number of years. I guess defending bad guys didn't sit well with the FOP, which is backing Democrat Fred Sheeler for recorder of deeds.
Lodge No. 71 of the Fraternal Order of Police represents police officers from all municipalities in Berks County except the City of Reading and the Pennsylvania State Police. Lodge No. 71 also includes members of the Berks County Sheriff's Office and the United States Department of Homeland Security stationed in Berks.
HARRISBURG PA RALLY AGAINST ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS RAPIDLY APPROACHING!!!!!!!!!
Saturday, September 1st, 2007
Save America, Save Hazleton! Support immigration reform! Support Mayor Barletta
12:00PM Capitol Building
These are some of the people organizaing the rally and planning to participate:
Congressman Paul C. Broun, MD, Georgia
Frank Jorge, LAIR, AVIMM (Latino Americans for Immigration Reform), (Antelope Valley Minutemen) http://www.latinoamericans.org/
Rev. Jessie Peterson, BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny) http://www.bondinfo.org/
Joey Vento, Geno's Steaks http://www.genosteaks.com/
Robert Goldsborough, President of Americans for Immigration Control http://www.immigrationcontrol.com/
EmCee John Clark, Americans for Immigration Control http://www.immigrationcontrol.com/
Frank Scavo, Voice of the People http://www.voiceofthepeopleusa.com/
Paul Topete, lead singer from Poker Face http://www.pokerface.com/html
Daniel Smeriglio, Voice of the People http://www.voiceofthepeopleusa.com/
Andrew Woodring, Voice of the People http://www.voiceofthepeopleusa.com/
Peter Gadiel, 9/11 Families for a Secure America http://www.911fsa.org/
Hagen Smith, Constitution Party http://www.constitutionparty.com/
Susan Smith, Nebraskans Advisory Group http://www.nebraskansadvisorygroup.com/index.htm
Mariann Davies, You Don't Speak for Me http://www.dontspeakforme.org/
Michael Cutler http://www.911fsa.org/info/bio_cutler.html
Dan Amato, Digger's Realm http://www.diggersrealm.com/mt/
Music by Poker Face http://www.pokerface.com/html/pf_gigs.html
HARRISBURG RALLY IS RAPIDLY APPROACHING!!!!!!!!!
We are looking to run buses from the Nanticoke area as well as the Hazleton area. The seats will be first come first served. We need to know immediately so arrangements can be made. If you are interested or have any questions about travel for our Sept. 1st rally in Harrisburg at the Capitol building.
Please contact: Greg Griffin - 570 239 6244 or Renee Butts - 570 239 5342
Seats will go fast, so call now!!! We need to make this the biggest event our Capitol has ever seen. We can't do it without your support!
Speaking to reporter David Mekeel of the Reading Eagle from Reading Hospital and Medical Center, Stamm, who is also running for mayor of Reading, said he doesn't remember much about the accident.
The 51-year-old Stamm broke both shoulder blades, his collar bone and several ribs as well as puncturing a lung when he plunged at least 20 feet onto concrete on Aug. 17, according to the newspaper.
Stamm spent the next five days in the intensive care unit at Reading Hospital before being moved into a rehabilitation wing, Stamm told Mekeel.
Stamm told the newspaper he expects to be released from the hospital this week, but is facing months of rehabilitation. He has been unable to walk since the accident, Stamm told the newspaper.
The fall took while Stamm was on a maintenance call for Fluidics, a Philadelphia company where Stamm has been working at since January, the newspaper said. Stamm told the newspaper that was working on the heating and cooling system at the Meridian Building when he fell while closing a hatch on the building roof.
Stamm is attempting to unseat incumbent Democratic Mayor Tom McMahon, who barely won his party’s nomination in a crowded primary field in May.
McMahon, master of the photo opportunity but a mayor of little substance, doesn't have to show for his past four years as mayor of Reading, which is experiencing a variety of problems, including violent crime, trash dumping and deteriorating infrastructure.
Stamm told the Reading Eagle that he participated in a Reading School Board meeting via telephone last week and plans to continue campaigning for mayor when his is physically able.
The timing of the accident couldn't be worse for Stamm, who was offering Reading residents a credible alternative to McMahon.
Stamm has been blogging at Keith Stamm, School Director since January 2005, but hasn’t posted any new entries since the week before the accident.
My site counter has recorded 30,000 unique visitors to this blog so far this year. (Closing in on 40,000 page views, whatever that means).
Gotta run. I'm speaking to the Spring-Ford Rotary Club today at noon. I'll be back later today with some fresh postings.
Thanks for visiting.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The Bureau reported Tuesday that 36.5 million Americans, or 12.3 percent — were living in poverty in 2006 (the most recent numbers available). That's a drop from the 12.6 percent rate recorded in 2005.
Of course, it's George W. Bush's fault. Oh, wait. This is good news. I was just thinking about the the liberal media was going to say about the poverty statistics. The left-wing media's knee-jerk reaction to blame Bush for everything, but in this case, the president deserves the credit, which is probably why you won't read or hear much about the declining poverty numbers in the mainstream media.
Check your local newspaper Wednesday to see where the "Poverty Rate Declines" story is placed. For the past six years, the poverty rate was front page news because the the numbers rose slightly each year. How much you wanna bet that newspapers will bury the story about the drop in poverty in Wednesday's editions?
Pity "poor" John Edwards. The millionaire trial lawyer's entire campaign for president is based on the fact that he plans to eliminate poverty. He is going to bridge the gap between the "two Americas." How can we forget that John Edwards went on his Magical Poverty Tour this summer to bring attention to the plight of poor Americans.
What's the point of Edwards' staying in the race if poverty is in decline? Is another attack on Ann Coulter coming in the next few days to revive the sinking Edwards' campaign?
You can read the full poverty report at the Census Bureau's Web site.
(Photo credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
It's all part of the organization's efforts to communicate better with members and to promote issues of interest to Greek-Americans.
The AHEPA, founded in 1922, is the largest Greek-American fraternal organization in the world. The mission of the AHEPA Family (which includes a women's auxiliary and youth groups) is to promote Hellenism, Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility and Family and Individual Excellence, according to its Web site.
The AHEPA includes chapters in United States, Canada, Greece and Cyprus and "sister" chapters in Australia and New Zealand.
You can sign up for the weekly newsletter at the Web site.
The Web site redesign corresponds with the election of Ike Gulas as supreme president of the organization, which had been showing its age in recent years.
Gulas, who at 45 is about 30 years younger than the typical member of AHEPA, should provide some much-needed energetic leadership to the group, which has experienced declining membership over the past 20 years and barely survived a financial scandal involving its top leadership about 10 years ago.
Monday, August 27, 2007
An incumbent member of the Antietam School Board in Berks County is on the Tax Sale listing published by the Berks County Tax Claim Bureau.
Beverly W. Daniels, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 6, is $10,735 in arrears on her property tax payments, according to the tax bureau notice.
Voters in the Antietam School District will have to decide if they want somebody who doesn't pay their taxes on time to continue serving on the school board. Is it right to approve tax hikes when you don't pay your own taxes on time? You also have to wonder whether a person who has so much difficulty with her household fiscal planning should be deciding how the Antietam School District spends millions of dollars.
Daniels cross-filed in both the Democratic and Republican primaries in May. She lost the Republican nomination to a newcomer, but won one of the available Democratic nominations, placing her name on the November ballot.
This not the first time Beverly Daniels' name has appeared on a list for unpaid taxes. Based on the average residential tax payment in the Antietam School District, the $10,735 adds up to at least three or four years in back taxes.
Daniels and her husband, Sherwood E. Daniels, are the owners of record of the property at 2244 Perkiomen Avenue in Mount Penn, according to the tax bureau. The couple has until Sept. 26 to make arrangements to pay back taxes or the home could be sold to the highest bidder at a tax sale.
Beverly Daniels' tax troubles have not gone unnoticed by other school board candidates.
John Fielding, Jerry Palamara and Judy Swartz, running under the banner of Parents and Taxpayers United, have raised the issue of Daniels' late payments.
"Not only does Bev vote for every increase in the budget, which must be paid for by an increase in taxes, but she doesn't pay them herself," according to a Web posting by Fielding. "She has been egregiously behind in her taxes since at least the mid-1990's. So why should she mind tax increases? She doesn't pay them herself."
The Reading Eagle wrote about Beverly Daniels' habitual tardiness in paying her taxes a few of years back, but that has not dissuaded Daniels from seeking a new four-year term on the school board. Daniels could still be voted off the board if she finishes last in the race for five open seats.
I'm surprised state lawmakers haven't looked at the situation. Shouldn't a basic qualification of holding public office (especially on a taxing body like the school board) be timely payment of your taxes?
To read more about Beverly Daniels' time on the school board and her view on taxes, visit the Antietam Tax Watch Web site.
House Bill 1600 is a rehash of earlier failed efforts and doesn't come close to reforming Pennsylvania's antiquated property tax laws, according to The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa.
Read the full editorial, "Property tax proposal is just another attempt to reduce, not reform" at www.pottsmerc.com
The state's two leading grassroots organizations fighting for property tax relief, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayers Associations and S.T.O.P. (Stop Taxing Our Properties) have also condemned HB 1600, the latest effort by House Democrats to distract Pennsylvania voters with bogus tax reform.
Read more about genuine property tax relief at www.ptcc.us or www.grandoldusa.com
By the way, David Baldinger of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayers Associations, will be a guest on the Bob Durgin radio program on WHP (580 AM) in Harrisburg, today at 4 p.m. to discuss HB 1600 and the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007, which his group supports.
WHP streams the Durgin program live on the Web, so you can listen in by going to http://www.voiceofpa.net/
Friday, August 24, 2007
Here's a quick guide to some of the shenanigans going on in Ed Rendell's Keystone State:
Christina Gostomski of The Morning Call reports on the growing red ink in the two state pension funds in a story headlined Taxpayers poised to pay $2 billion for pensions
Also in today's Morning-Call, John Micek has an update on the State Police gun sales fiasco in a story headlined, "Gun sales suspension questioned." Read it here.
The Associated Press is reporting today that gun dealers have filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania to prevent the shutdown of the State Police computer used for criminal background checks, effectively stopping all gun sales during the start of dove and Canadian geese hunting seasons. Somebody buy the State Police a calendar.
Rendell's Labor Secretary, Stephen Schmerin, is facing ethical questions (this seems to be a pattern in the governor's cabinet) from a contractor, according to The Associated Press. You can read "State labor chief has conflict, contractor claims" here.
Tracie Mauriello of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports on the fallout from the latest bonus scandal at PHEAA, the state's student loan agency. There's talk of a shakeup at the scandal-plagued agency.
Tom Barnes has a story in today's Post-Gazette about Republican efforts to increase the financial and political independence of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Read about it here.
Lowman Henry comments on Rendell failed to effectively deal with PA highway crisis at The Lincoln Blog.
And my favorite editorial of the day is from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which points out that Pennsylvania welfare costs have risen from $6.5 billion to $9.7 billion or nearly 50 percent under Gov. Rendell. Read about the looming welfare crisis.
Global warming may not be as hot a topic
Earlier this month, NASA quietly corrected its list of the warmest years on earth.
It turns out the hottest year on the planet, as reported in Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth," was not 1998.
It was 1934.
In fact, after NASA’s recalculating the average U.S. surface-air temperatures for the lower 48 states, four of the Top 10 hottest years occurred in the 1930s, not in the 1990s or this century.
Why did NASA recalculate it previous findings? Was it done under pressure from the Bush administration?
NASA can thank a man named Steve McIntyre, a Canadian climatologist, who thought there was something wrong with NASA’s raw temperature data for some time and ultimately proved it to NASA’s satisfaction. And embarrassment.
What does this mean?
Well, for one thing, it means that those who believe in global warming dangers are going to have to change their scripts when it comes to their pronouncements of the hottest years on record.
It does not mean that global warming isn’t happening or that it is not a serious and important issue.
But it does raise questions and it can serve as a reminder that global-warming science is only as good as the people who perform it.
And, of course, that people, including scientists, make mistakes.
Moreover, scientists are no less likely to fall victim to a herd mentality than are experts in other fields, like journalism for instance.
Recently, Newsweek magazine produced a cover story on the "global-warming denial machine," in which it portrayed climate change skeptics as corrupt and in the pockets of Big Oil and big business.
But there are excellent reasons why America hasn’t adopted the sort of stringent, anti-warming regulations that were proposed by the Kyoto treaty in the 1990s. They are, simply put, too expensive and too ineffective to justify imposing on our (and the world) economy.
To the extent that carbon emissions are creating a greenhouse effect over the planet, there remain honest scientists unsure of just what the long-term effects will be. Again, that does not mean the issue should be ignored. It does not mean we should jump to "sky is falling" conclusions either.
There are excellent national security reasons for us to try to wean ourselves from foreign oil. And there are fine environmental reasons to cut down on our carbon emissions.
We cheer individual and community environmental efforts to cut pollution and energy usage.
But demonizing those who raise questions about the issue and point out how much we don’t know about it is not the best way to win hearts and change minds.
Copyright 2007, The Daily Times, Primos, Pa.
THORNS to the officials who run Pennsylvania’s student loan agency for another round of exorbitant spending by an agency with a history of wasting money. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which was widely criticized earlier this year when it was revealed it spent nearly $900,000 for lavish trips and gifts for its administrators, board members and spouses, has awarded more than $500,000 in bonuses to its top executives. The biggest bonus approved by an executive committee of PHEAA’s 20-member board went to PHEAA’s top executive, Richard E. Willey, who will receive $180,857 in addition to his annual salary of $289,118. Bonuses of $113,514 each were awarded to Tim Guenther, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Brian Lecher, executive vice president of information technology and chief information officer; and James Preston, executive vice president of client relations and loan operations. Kelly Powell Logan, executive vice president of public service and marketing, received a $52,436 bonus. Guenther, Lecher and Preston earn annual salaries of $217,757 each; Logan’s is $201,178. PHEAA previously awarded $852,834 in bonuses in the 2005-06 fiscal year to Willey and six executive vice presidents. “Disturbing, to say the least,” is how a spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell greeted the news of the bonuses. “This is another example of the agency’s failure to understand that its mission is to help students pay for college and not to provide further compensation for well-paid executives,” Chuck Ardo said. We agree. While PHEAA, a nonprofit corporation created and largely controlled by the Legislature, finances its operating expenses from its own investments, it receives $500 million a year in state taxpayer money. The lack of oversight by members of the Legislature who make up the PHEAA board is equally disturbing. A major overhaul of the agency and its board is overdue.
THORNS to the Pennsylvania State Police for not considering the impact on the state’s hunters and gun shop owners when the agency decided to shut down the state’s computerized criminal background check system from Sept. 2-6. The state police announced last week that it was planning to suspend the background checks during the Labor Day weekend to upgrade its computer system, a move that would halt gun sales during the first days of dove and Canada geese hunting seasons. Timing appears to be a problem for the state police. The agency failed to respond in a timely manner during the Valentine’s Day ice storm that stranded thousands of motorists on Interstate 78. The state police’s top brass also drew criticism from lawmakers and residents when it decided to close many of its barracks at 5 p.m. in a money-saving move. Shutting down the computer system at the start of hunting season is another example of bad timing on the part of the state police. The computer maintenance could be done later in the fall or winter.
Copyright 2007, The Mercury
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Stung earlier this year by the revelation of $900,000 in spending on lavish trips and gifts by PHEAA board members and top executives, you'd think the agency would be on its best behavior. Not so. The Associated Press reports that PHEAA, which provides student loans to Pennsylvania residents, handed out $500,000 in bonuses to its already well-paid executives.
There are efforts under way in the Legislature, spearheaded by state Sen. John Rafferty to provide more oversight over PHEAA. Those measure can't come soon enough.
Eric Epstein, coordinator of the watchdog group, RockTheCapital.org, is offering a 12-step program to reform PHEEA. I second that motion.
Here's Epstein's plan:
Twelve Step Program to Reform the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
1) No individual indicted or arraigned by state or federal authorities for felonious conduct can continue to serve on the Board. However, Board Members should only be required to take a leave of absence until the matter is resolved. Full resignation from the Board should only be
required in the event of being found guilty of a felony or an offense involving moral turpitude.
2) The Board should be reduced from 20 to nine (9) members. Members of the Board shall serve no more than three consecutive four-year terms and no more than a total of 12 years.
3) The Board should be composed of directors with appropriate skill sets in accounting, community banking, economics, education, finance, marketing, law or statistics. Board members will be eligible for annual compensation and business meeting stipends as well as reimbursement for legitimate expenses in accord with governance protocol and prevailing public service directorship fees. All data related to Board compensation and expenses will be available for public review.
4) Board members should be nominated by the Governor and approved by 37 senators. Unless a vacancy exists on the Board, the Governor shall nominate no more than four Board Members during each four-year term.
5) No current member of the legislative or executive branches of state government should be a eligible to serve as a member of the Board thereby nullifying the claim that Board members "compel the conclusion that the legislative members of PHEAA's board are acting as an arm of the General Assembly when they engage in PHEAA activities." (Richard Wiley, PHEAA, “Final Decision”, June 7, 2006 )
The Executive Director of PHEAA shall not be a member of PHEAA's Board
6) PHEAA's current Board of Directors, together with senior management, should issue a statement acknowledging that PHEAA is not exempt from Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law.
7) PHEAA should reimburse the legal costs of the three news organizations that filed Right to Know requests, i.e., the Associated Press, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg and WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh.
8) PHEAA's current Board of Directors, together with senior management, should immediately release all records requested by legitimate news organizations, including all names or other information necessary to a complete understanding of the nature and purpose of all financial transactions, and release the outstanding records requested by the above-named news agencies.
10) PHEAA's Board should issue a statewide request for proposal for bond lawyers and counsel not affiliated with senior management or the Board of Directors or "contractually affiliated" with any cabinet member of the executive branch or any member of the legislative branch of Pennsylvania's government.
11) PHEAA's Board should issue request for proposals for a forensic audit to be conducted by one of the Nationally-recognized "Big Four" accounting firms. an entity not affiliated with senior management or the Board of Directors.
12) PHEAA's Board should accept Richard Willey's resignation, with severance compensation contractually in effect and required as of his last compensation review date, and conduct a statewide search for a qualified Executive Director, not "contractually affiliated" with senior
management or the Board of Directors or "contractually affiliated" with any cabinet member of the executive branch or any member of the legislative branch of Pennsylvania's government.
Below is a list of PHEAA Board members who are ultimately responsible for the financial excesses at the agency. Most of them are current members of the Pennsylvania Legislature, in which case you might want to ask, "What the hell is wrong with people?"
Rep. William F. Adolph, Jr. Chairman Springfield
Senator Sean LoganVice Chairman Monroeville
Rep. Ronald I. Buxton Harrisburg
Senator Jake Corman Bellefonte
Honorable J. Doyle Corman Bellefonte
Rep. Craig A. Dally Nazareth
Senator Jane M. Earll Erie
Senator Vincent J. Fumo Philadelphia
Senator Vincent J. Hughes Philadelphia
Rep. Sandra J. Major Montrose
Rep. Jennifer L. Mann Allentown
Rep. Joseph F. Markosek Monroeville
Senator Michael A. O'Pake Reading
Honorable Roy Reinard Holland
Senator James J. Rhoades Mahanoy City
Rep. James R. Roebuck, Jr. Philadelphia
A. William Schenck III Pittsburgh
Rep. Jess M. Stairs Acme
Senator Robert M. Tomlinson Bensalem
Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak PA Department of Education
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
According to The Associated Press, it was Hardy who filed a divorce petition Monday in Fayette County, citing "irreconcilable differences."
Maybe it was the nearly six decades in age difference that pulled the honeymooners apart, but then again, the couple looked happy in this April 2007 photo just before they exchanged vows.
Hardy had five children with his first wife and high school sweetheart, Dorothy, whom he divorced in 1997. He had two daughters with his second wife, Debra, an employee of the lumber company, before divorcing her.
Hardy and Georgi were married May 5 in Las Vegas. Before that, Georgi worked in a salon at Hardy's posh Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa in Farmington.
Hardy's daughter Maggie Hardy Magerko now runs the lumber company.
The problem with taking the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) offline is that nobody in the state will be allowed to buy guns (legally that is) because background checks can't be performed. That includes shotguns and rifles used by the state's many hunters.
Outdoor enthusiasts and gun dealers are up in arms over the planned shutdown and they are letting their elected representatives know about it.
In turn, the politicians are putting pressure on State Police Commissioner Col. Jeffrey Miller to reconsider his decision on the timing of the shutdown.
House Majority leader Bill DeWeese and Rep. Ed Staback, D-50th Dist., who is chairman of Game and Fisheries Committee, sent a letter today to Miller.
Here are some highlights:
"The beginning of September is a bad time to shut down PICS. For hunters, dove season begins at the start of September. Each year, dove season serves as an introduction to the hunting experience for countless new license buyers. Shotgun purchases during this time of year reflect the eagerness that these new hunters enter into their sport. Also, the more experienced hunters seeking to upgrade equipment at the outset of the year's firearm season will be turned away. Whether for dove or the other seasons that closely follow, the beginning of September is an established commencement to the state's hunting year."
And let's not forget about the gun dealers:
"Because of the importance of the first week in September, including the Labor Day weekend, gun retailers historically rely on this period to run promotions to encourage buyers. One large retailer, Bass Pro Shops, uses this time to hold their Fall Hunting Classic. The impact of the unavailability of PICS to Bass Pro Shop, and to the other establishments with whom they compete, is obvious."
The computer upgrade will require that PICS be offline for several days, but DeWeese and Staback argue that Miller could have picked a better time to pull the plug.
"A better span of days can be found by utilizing the extensive records of gun sales during previous years along with a general recognition of the scheduled state firearm hunting seasons. Several suggestions for a better time period for a shutdown have been made in recent days. By working with input from affected interested parties, the plans for PICS can be fulfilled with much less inconvenience to gun buyers and to retailers."
The lawmakers want to meet with Miller ASAP to find a more suitable time to shut down the computer system.
Miller is already in hot water with lawmakers because of the State Police's mishandling of the Valentine's Day ice storm on Interstate 78. He needs all the friends he can get in the Legislature.
Lawmakers also took Col. Miller to the woodshed when he proposed closing many state police barracks after 5 p.m.
Better clear your schedule, colonel, and set up a meeting with DeWeese and Staback pronto. You don't want to piss off the people who decide how much money your agency gets next year.
Interest – Pay or Receive?
There has been much recent discussion concerning increasing tolls of the PA Turnpike and tolling I80 for improving our roads and bridges. Tolls are a hidden tax. When we tax transportation; the costs are passed along to the consumers in higher prices. Companies don’t pay taxes. We do!
We’re at a crossroads in Pennsylvania (seems like we’re always at a crossroads here). The governor and legislature recently passed a budget without much serious thought and foresight. In it, they elected to issue bonds for immediate cash. We will be paying millions in interest for years on these bonds.
Why not receive interest. The longer I considered our governor’s proposal to lease the Turnpike, the more convinced I became it is the way to go. Why? Our state budget and recent developments have convinced me that government alone, especially our government, does not have the answers.
Gov. Edward G. Rendell recently said as much on CNBC when he stated that private investment is needed to prevent disasters like the Minnesota bridge collapse. He also stated that by leasing the Turnpike, the state could expect to receive $500M more than the budget would provide.
P3s (Public-Private Partnerships) are the answer. A private company wouldn’t need A-Manager-A-Mile ; but would need road crews and toll collectors who actually do the work. Just think; I80 remains toll-free as it was born-free and should remain that way.
For additional information – go to: www.CommonwealthFoundation.org and type in Turnpike.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
This one is called House Bill 1600. If the plan sounds familiar, it's because it's another bait-and-switch scheme the Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell have cooked up. It sounds like another half-measure similar to Rendell's slots bill of 2004 or Act 72 of 2005 or Act 1 of 2006, House Bill 1600 is more smoke and mirrors. Another carnival shell game.
The two leading state taxpayer groups advocating elimination of property taxes in Pennsylvania have already rendered a verdict on the Democrats' version of tax relief. It's thumbs down on House Bill 1600 from both the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayers Associations and S.T.O.P. (Stop Taxing Our Properties).
Both groups warn that this is nothing but another half-measure by politicians who want to fool taxpayers with another Band-Aid approach to tax reform.
Here's what Bob Logue of S.T.O.P had to say:
"They’re at it again. Some legislators, led by Rep. Dave Levdansky, D-Allegheny County, have repackaged the same old property tax scam voters have rejected three times. House Bill 1600 would: Temporarily reduce school property taxes while permanently increasing sales/use taxes and the state income tax. Because there is nothing in this legislation that would prevent school taxes from increasing again, you would eventually be paying higher property taxes again along with the higher income and sales taxes."
S.T.O.P. is urging Pennsylvania residents to contact their state legislators and tell them you want him or her to oppose House Bill 1600.
"Tell them the only true property tax reform is total abolishment of all property taxes and assessments/reassessments on primary residences," Logue said. "The S.T.O.P. plan is complete, proven workable by the legislative budget and finance committee, and permanent. The S.T.O.P. plan kills property taxes on primary residences … period."
Read more about plan at http://www.grandoldusa.com/
Here's what David Baldinger of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations said about House Bill 1600: "Pennsylvania taxpayers won't accept another feeble attempt at property tax reform by the Pennsylvania Legislature. Like Act 1 and its predecessors, Act 72 and 50, HB 1600 would offer only token reductions in property taxes while opening up new avenues to tax Pennsylvania citizens without addressing the cause of the current crisis."
Representatives of the PCTA's 21 member taxpayer groups from across Pennsylvania met in Chester County over the weekend to unanimously condemn House Bill 1600 and to endorse the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007.
"Since school property taxes are not eliminated under HB 1600, they will continue to escalate leaving the taxpayer with the same burdensome property tax plus new taxes under HB 1600, without addressing the cost of education, the property tax crisis, or the issue of equitable funding for public schools," Baldinger said.
Members of various taxpayer groups plan to attend hearings across the state by House Democrats to speak against HB 1600.
The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 29, at 10 a.m. in the Oley Fair Center, 26 Jefferson St., Oley. Berks, Chester and Montgomery residents are urged to attend the meeting and voice their opposition to House Bill 1600 and support for the Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007.
For more information, visit the PCTA Web site at http://www.ptcc.us/
For all the talk state lawmakers have given us so far this year about reform, the No. 1 reform Pennsylvania taxpayers want to see — elimination of property taxes — has yet to be considered by the Legislature.
It's time to put pressure on your lawmaker, especially the ones who ran on a reform platform in 2006, to bring the Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007 up for a vote. Let's see where lawmakers stand on genuine property tax reform.
(A big thanks to Vicki Rhodier for this timely cartoon)
Judge Joyce announced his retirement Monday, the same day his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Joyce to a federal indictment charging the judge with bilking insurance companies for $440,000.
The retirement came just five days after federal prosecutors announced the charges and three days after Joyce vowed to stay in the race to win retention to another 10-year term on the state's second highest court.
In a matter of days, the Erie Republican went from respected jurist to legal pariah. A federal indictment will do that to you. Joyce was suspended Friday by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but the suspension was with pay ($165,000 a year) and did not preclude him from running for re-election.
As I mentioned in my weekend posting, Joyce needed to step down immediately. The indictment alone, regardless of whether he's found guilty, sealed his fate. Terms like mail fraud and money laundering don't play well in election campaigns.
Both political parties will now nominate candidates to battle for Joyce's seat on the bench.
The criminal case against Joyce stems from an August 2001 traffic accident that he said left him in such pain that he was unable to exercise or play golf for more than a year, The Associated Press reported. Prosecutors say the judge's car was rear-ended by another vehicle at about 5 mph, and that he faked his injuries to cash in on the insurance money, the AP said.
The indictment says Joyce was playing 18-hole rounds on courses as far away as Jamaica, going scuba diving and inline skating, and working out at a local gym, according to the AP. Joyce used the insurance money to buy a motorcycle and make down payments on a house and plane, the indictment alleges, according to the wire service.
Stuck with a lousy legislator
I write as a lifelong Republican. Like many of my fellow citizens in this Commonwealth, I have become disenchanted with our state government.
Through the pay raise debacle, ethics scandals, an obese legislature responsible to no one, a bureaucracy run by has beens, wannabees, and never-will-be's, the I-80 fiasco and the continuing rape of the populous through outdated, burdensome property tax reminiscent of medieval Europe, I have tried to keep the faith and hope for some one good and decent in our general assembly.
Sadly, I just checked the National Weather Service's Web site and the forecast for Hell is — still hot!
I have been having a problem with a state agency as of late. I contacted my so-called state Rep Tim Hennessey’s office for assistance. The phone number to his district office in Coatesville goes straight to voicemail. A voicemail that is not checked. After calling for six weeks to the district office and his office in Harrisburg I finally got someone on the phone.
I tried to explain my problem. She cut me off. Then she proceeded to ridicule me and told me to (putting it nicely) “bugger” myself. Then she hung up the phone.
I find it very sad that Tim Hennessey has to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find someone as incompetent and ignorant as his staff members. Then again, for someone like Tim Hennessey who wins elections by default, has a no-show job in the general assembly, and has not worked for the people in his district since Moses was floating down the Nile, what is one to expect?
Competence in state government. The rule of law in the Commonwealth. The right to know about what actually happens in Harrisburg. A freedom of information law like every other state in the union. Not in Pennsylvania, babe! We have a state government that would make Joseph Stalin blush. This Commonwealth has closed the windows and locked the doors to her people.
The old state motto of “Virtue, Liberty and Independence” has been replaced by “Vicious, Lethal and Dependent on a corrupt system.”
Tim Hennessey has not been challenged for his state representative seat for some time now. He is like a member of the old Soviet Politburo. Answerable to the feudal lords, not the serfs. He will not swear off his pension, his perks, or his pay. He has not joined the fight to downsize the legislature because he needs to protect his job at all costs. He refuses to eliminate property taxes. He refuses to stop the brain drain. He refuses to help Pennsylvania’s small businesses grow without burdensome government regulations. He refuses to control spending and cut taxes. He refuses to work for us. Voters be damned.
He will not voluntarily step aside to permit the great intention our nation’s founders had for the states, general assemblies ruled by citizen legislators, to be viable in Pennsylvania. By choice or by force of the voters, Tim Hennessey has to leave Harrisburg. Tim Hennessey has to be challenged in 2008. The people of this Commonwealth deserve better!
BRYAN J. SHINE
Monday, August 20, 2007
"Extravagant Gubernatorial Jobs Hype" by Dr. Jake Haulk, president of The Allegheny Institute, makes the case that Rendell routinely fudges employment numbers to show growth when Pennsylvania is losing thousands of good-paying jobs because of high taxes and oppressive government regulations.
Haulk debunks three assertions Rendell makes in a recent press release touting "Pennsylvania's Economy Continues to Outperform Nation."
"Each of these assertions is so easily debunked, it is almost embarrassing to do it," Haulk states in his policy brief. "However, since this was an official statement and some may find its assertions credible, debunking is necessary."
By the way, the caption under the photo to the right could read, "Only about this much of what I say is true."
Read Haulk's full report at http://alleghenyinstitute.org/
The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy bills itself as the "nation's first think tank devoted exclusively to bringing free-market solutions to local government."
Similar findings about Rendell's jobs shell game have been reported by the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association at http://www.pamanufacturers.org/ and The Commonwealth Foundation at http://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/ and The Lincoln Institute at http://www.lincolninstitute.org/
Who do you believe? Ed Rendell, who has repeatedly lied to Pennsylvania residents about property tax relief or the leading independent public policy research groups in the state? I think I'll go with The Allegheny Institute and the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association and the Commonwealth Foundation and the Lincoln Institute on this one.
(Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
Campaign finance reforms separate money and influence
"You change how we raise money ... you will fundamentally change the entire legislative process."
Rep. David Levdansky, an Allegheny County Democrat, told a House panel this week that his bill for campaign finance reform is an attempt to change influence-buying and lobbyist pressures in Harrisburg that are at the core of criticisms of this state’s legislature.
Calling campaign finance reform "the mother of all reforms," he said that changing the way political campaigns are funded is a critical step toward renewing the public's trust in state government.
"You change how we raise money ... you will fundamentally change the entire legislative process," he told the panel.
Levdansky is not the only lawmaker pushing for finance reform in the wake of public scandals and legislative missteps that have shaken voters’ confidence in state government.
Levdansky, one of at least three lawmakers sponsoring bills to impose stricter limits on campaign fundraising and spending, acknowledged that change has been a tough sell over the last 20 years, mainly because leaders of both parties were satisfied with the current system.
Legislative leaders like state Sen. Vincent Fumo -- the Philadelphia Democrat under federal indictment for fraud and tax evasion -- have built a career on their ability to raise and leverage campaign contributions for themselves and others.
Placing limits on campaign contributions erodes the power that well-connected lawmakers, including Gov. Ed Rendell, hold in swaying those around them for support on issues.
Candidates need money to wage campaigns, and as the need for that money grows, so grows the importance to a candidate of campaign contributions.
But with momentum building to make state government more open and accountable to the public, the movement to reform campaign finance rules has also grown. At least four bills have been introduced in the House this year and a proposal has ben floated by the governor. They call for widely differing limits on contributions.
The contribution limits proposed under Levdansky's bill would range from $200 per election from individuals to candidates for the Legislature, county judgeships and local offices to $20,000 per year from an individual or political action committee to a state party committee.
Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, is proposing to limit contributions to $2,300 per individual and $5,000 per political action committee for candidates in all state and local races.
Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, has proposed public financing of races for governor and lieutenant governor and fundraising and spending limits on candidates who accept public money. His bill is modeled after a New Jersey law that instituted public financing in 1977 for gubernatorial candidates who adhere to spending limits.
Vitali said public financing would lessen the influence of special interest groups in elections and encourage more people to run for public office. Under his bill, the public dollars would come from the state budget and a $5 contribution made through a checkoff box on state income tax returns.
"We do want races to be about ideas, not about who can raise the most money," Vitali said.
Rendell has proposed a $5,000 contribution limit for individuals and political action committees for statewide offices and big-city executive contests. A $2,000 limit would apply to all other races, including those for seats in the Legislature.
The Vitali proposal offers the most potential to make a real difference. It would remove power from special interest groups and open up elections to people who are not prepared to forfeit their life savings or sell their integrity just to buy a few TV ads.
But the Vitali proposal also is the most radical, and we have seen how radical reforms fare in Pennsylvania (abolish the property tax, include legislative records in open records laws, etc.).
As Levdansky said, these proposals are not just about setting a limit on how much money a candidate can raise. They are aimed at reforming the system, top to bottom, but taking money out of the power equation.
Quite simply, it's about time.
Copyright 2007, The Mercury
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I'm not sure if Smiley is giving Rendell political advice or the governor is attempting to plant a smooch on the Hatfield mascot.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
That's up from the 244 people murdered by the same date in 2006, but there is a bright side to all this carnage.
The ray of sunshine comes from none other than the city's beleaguered police commissioner, Sylvester Johnson.
In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, Johnson said overall shootings are down by 121 compared to the same time last year. Violent crime has also dropped 9 percent from last year, according to Johnson.
Now that's what we want to hear from the city's top law enforcement official.
The police commissioner blamed the violence on the "availability of guns," The Daily News reports.
Now let me see if I get this straight. There are fewer shootings, but more people turning up dead. Sounds to me like the thugs who are doing the shooting have improved their aim since last year. Pardon me if I don't see the bright side here, commissioner.
There are 138 days left in the year (and we're 138 days closer to Johnson's retirement). Unfortunately, if the trend continues, another 138 people will be shot to death in Philadelphia this year.
Mayor John Street, the Philadelphia City Council, Gov. Ed Rendell and the members of the Philadelphia delegation in the state Legislature could not be reached for comment. All are vacationing somewhere where it's safe ... somewhere away from Philadelphia.
To read more about the latest deadly day in Philadelphia, check out "More Gunfire" in the Daily News.
"Blogs have become an essential means of communication in modern day politics, and our party realizes the importance of having an online forum to promote our stance on the issues that effect Pennsylvanians every day," Gleason said in a press release. "I look forward to using our newly launched Chairman's blog to carry on a more personal dialogue concerning the issues of the day with
Judging on how poorly the Republican Party has done in Pennsylvania in recent years, Gleason better do more than carry on a "personal dialogue" with voters.
Gleason's first posting is about the loss of manufacturing jobs under Gov. Ed Rendell. Pennsylvania has lost 12,000 manufacturing jobs and 300 plants have closed down, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association cited by Gleason..
In addition to the Chairman's Blog, the new-and-improved PAGOP.org Web site also features a news blog that will include daily posts on the important issues of the day from across the state.
"Our goal is to provide links to the latest legislative news from Washington and Harrisburg, while providing commentary on how the Party sees these specific measures affecting their everyday lives," said Michael Barley, Republican Party of Pennsylvania communications director. "The PAGOP.org blog allows the Party to better articulate our message to our Republican committee members and grassroots volunteers in a timely manner. This tool will prove to be an indispensable resource."
PAGOP.org also includes links to our GOP candidates' Web sites, political blogs, the Pennsylvania Department of State, and statewide newspapers, television and radio stations. An online store with various GOP merchandise is also set to come online in the coming weeks, Barley said.
According to The Associated Press, Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Michael Thomas Joyce of Erie vows to continue his bid for a second 10-year term despite a federal indictment.
The indictment alleges Joyce of bilking insurance companies out of $440,000 in fraudulent claims after a traffic accident, the AP reports.
Joyce is not legally required to step down because the charges do not directly involve his court-related duties, Joseph A. Massa Jr., chief counsel for the state Judicial Conduct Board, told The Associated Press.
The Judicial Conduct Board investigates and prosecutes charges of misconduct by judges, according to the AP.
While Joyce is innocent until proven guilty, voters can make up their own mind about the judge's fitness to continue on the bench on Nov. 6. That's when voters get to cast a "Yes" or "No" vote to allow Joyce to continue on the court for another 10 years at an annual salary of $165,000.
Having an elected official (a judge no less) under indictment is nothing new in Pennsylvania, which rivals Louisiana for political corruption.
After all, this is Pennsylvania, where state Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, faces a 139-count federal indictment for conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and filing false income tax
Fumo continues to wield enormous influence in the state Senate and plans to seek re-election in 2008, when his trial is expected to start.
This is Pennsylvania, where elected officials are routinely convicted of corruption. See Philadelphia, where "pay to play" is on the official city seal.
Now you know why judicial races are so important. If we can't trust the integrity of our judges, where does that leave us? To learn more about the November races for statewide judicial office, I recommend going to: http://www.democracyrisingpa.com/ and clicking on the "Justice On Trial" button.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Stamm was admitted to the intensive care at Reading Hospital on Monday after a work-related accident, according to his hometown newspaper.
A hospital spokeswoman told the Reading Eagle on Monday that Stamm, who was injured Friday, was in listed in fair condition.
Details of the accident are sketchy, but Stamm, a real estate agent, fell from a "significant height" at an undisclosed location, the newspaper reported.
Stamm suffered two broken shoulders and several broken ribs, Reading School Superintendent Thomas D. Chapman Jr. told the newspaper.
Stamm, who blogs at http://keithstamm.blogspot.com/ hasn't posted anything on his site since August 7.
I don't know Keith Stamm personally, but I've read some of his blog postings and read many articles about his campaign for school board and mayor. He's a breath of fresh air in the stale atmosphere of one-party rule and cronyism in Reading.
The timing of the accident is bad because I'm sure Stamm will need lots of time to recover and that will limit his ability to campaign time as we approach the November election.
Stamm is offering the residents of Reading a qualified alternative to the current do-nothing mayor.
But politics will have to take a backseat to Stamm's health. My best wishes to Keith Stamm for a full and speedy recovery.
I received an e-mail last week from a Philadelphia resident who might be the last conservative holdout in the city. He asked for help in locating any conservative bloggers who write about the city.
I have good news for my conservative friend in Philly. He is not alone.
I would like to steer him to the following bloggers for alternative views from the 1,000 liberal bloggers (my estimate) based in the city.
Try visiting http://www.saysuncle.com/ and http://sharpshooters.blogspot.com/ and http://firstinengine.blogspot.com/
If anyone knows of any other bloggers in Philly who don't lean to the left, please let me know so I can help publicize them.
Here's the link to the story about Berks County Clerk of the Courts James Troutman's attempt to "intimidate" Green Party candidate Jessica L. Ashman, who wants to run against Troutman: http://www.readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=54886
Troutman, a Republican, should not be involved in determining who is eligible to run for office, especially a potential challenger for the office Troutman now holds. This is the problem with the two-party monopoly in this state.
You can also make an argument for abolishing county row offices in Pennsylvania. These people should be professionals running specific departments, not politicians who are looking out for themselves.
To learn more about the struggle of third parties to get on the ballot in Pennsylvania, go to the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition Web site at www.paballotaccess.org
You can also check out my November 2006 posting, "Hidden Voices Must Be Heard" at http://tonyphyrillas.blogspot.com/2006/11/hidden-voices-must-be-heard.html
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler announced Tuesday that both the "sufficiency" and "condition" ratings for the 54 bridges similar in design to the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota have been posted at www.dot.state.pa.us
"This list represents the first step toward providing additional data about Pennsylvania's 25,000 state maintained bridges, " Biehler said in a statement. "In the coming weeks, we will add the data for the rest of our large bridge inventory."
Pennsylvania ranks No. 1 in the nation in structurally deficient bridges.
Pennsylvania has nearly 6,000 crumbling bridges, according to the state. Basically, one of out every four bridges in the state is considered structurally deficient, meaning they are in need of some level of repair.
Approximately 800 bridges have weight or lane restrictions and 54 are closed, according to Biehler.
PennDOT's Web posting contains a glossary of terms used in bridge charts, a drawing of a steel truss bridge with components identified and the chart with individual bridge information, including the sufficiency rating and three condition ratings numbers, according to Biehler.
"Our bridge engineers use these numbers to manage our system and help us decide on prioritizing bridge needs," Biehler said. "The numbers should not be viewed as a measure of whether a bridge is safe or not. If a bridge is open, it is safe for travel."
That's probably what transportation officials in Minnesota said about their interstate bridge before it collapsed Aug. 1.
The truth is the Rendell administration has diverted money for road and bridge repairs to subsidize failing mass transit systems over the past five years. Bridges and roads don't vote. But the high-paid union workers who drive buses, trolleys and trains and the politically-connected officials who run the bloated mass transit systems do vote -- and contribute generously to politicians.
Keep your fingers crossed, or better yet, say a prayer, next time you cross a bridge in Pennsylvania.
I'm sure Biehler doesn't want to be known as the man who ran PennDOT when a bridge collapsed, but this is the same man in charge in February when thousands of motorists were stranded on Interstate 78 during an ice storm.
Biehler says his people are doing extra inspections of the 28 steel deck truss bridges PennDOT owns that are similar in design to the Interstate 35 bridge that collapsed in Minnesota. PennDOT has also asked the owners of the 26 other steel deck truss bridges in the state to inspect them right away.
All state-owned bridges are inspected every two years and more frequently if a bridge has serious deterioration, Biehler said.
And all the talk about raising the gas tax to provide more money for bridge and road repairs is a smoke-screen. There's plenty of money coming in from the state and national gas tax. The problem is that politicians use the money for pork projects instead of maintenance. Giving them more money to waste is not the answer.
In 2006, PennDOT spent $558 million on bridge projects. But the state poured nearly $1 billion to subsidize inefficient mass transit systems.
The much-ballyhooed plan to toll Interstate 80, which may not happen if two Pennsylvania congressmen have their way, would provide an additional $532 million per year over the next 10 years to repair roads and bridges, according to Biehler.
I'm not doubting Biehler's sincerity, but I know how government works. Politicians have a bad habit of diverting money from needed maintenance work to more high-profile projects that will help them get elected. I'm sure it's the same everywhere, including Minnesota.