Friday, June 03, 2005

15: “A Legislative Action Agenda for Sanity”

The time has come for the Pennsylvania state government (the Governor, and the Legislature) to return to representative government, and stop governing by plutocracy. With the advent of Act 71 (authorizing gambling in Pennsylvania), and Act 72 (allocating a large portion of the profits generated by Act 71 to public school systems throughout the state), Pennsylvania government has become an embarrassment.

Of the 501 Public School Systems in Pennsylvania, only 20% of them opted to accept funding from Act 71 money. Most of the systems stated they did not believe they would ever see the money Governor Rendell and the legislative leaders promised would be generated by Act 71. Others refused to accept gambling-tainted money on moral grounds. All of those that opted out refused to give up the right to set tax rates, as opting in to Act 72 meant surrendering that authority to their constituents.

While Act 72 provided for tax relief for property owners, it did nothing of the sort for renters; but, the real problem lies within Act 71, the gaming authorization act.

Act 71 is about as unethical a piece of legislation as one could ever find. First, the governing board of the new Gaming Commission would be appointed by various members of both parties in the state legislature, and by the governor. Then, incredibly, the legislature said it was okay for members of the legislature to own a portion of a casino. What in the world possesses basically decent people to place themselves in harms way like this? Clearly it is a conflict of interest. Clearly and unequivocally it is a conflict of interest.

To compound the ethical lapse, the governing board has the authority to totally ignore not only public and/or local opposition to a casino, but also local zoning ordinances. If a parcel of land is designated a potential casino site, but it is zoned for agriculture, or for residential occupancy, no matter. The casino goes in anyway, and the local ordinances be damned. In other words, your friendly state government gaming commission, stocked with members appointed by your friendly legislators, have decided you have no right to stop them from putting a casino in your neighborhood. Whatever happened to representative government?

In Adams County, the man who is selling the plot of land to the potential casino owners, Bob Monahan, a local developer, tried to clear himself in the newspaper by stating he had no knowledge of who wanted to buy his property, and what for, until he had signed a confidentiality agreement. Well, okay Mr. Monahan, so what? No one says you have to sell the land to them. Take it off the market for a while. But, he insists, it’s a done deal, Gettysburg is getting a casino whether it is on his parcel of land or another. Please Mr. Monahan, spare us the innocent act.

Mr. Monahan has been working hand in hand with the other parts of the cabal to develop Gettysburg, the Adams County Economic Development Corporation, and the Straban Township Supervisors. Now he doesn’t want to be the bad guy here. Its bad for business. Gee. How long has Monahan been doing business in Adams County? And he does not know this is a very religious community that would naturally have objections to gambling in its midst? Businessmen are supposed to be more astute than that. Monahan claims ignorance, and that it doesn’t matter, so he might as well be the one who makes the money off the real estate deal for the new casino. This is not the first time Mr. Monahan has misjudged the people of the Gettysburg area. But, we won’t go into that.

Let’s focus on what can be changed to affect a solution at least for Adams County, if not for the entire state.

  1. Repeal Act 71. There is much more wrong with this legislation than there is right with it. It deserves a quick and merciless death.
  2. Repeal Act 72. This is merely “fruit of the poisoned tree”. Without Act 71, it is a meaningless piece of legislation, ill conceived, ill written, and intrinsically corrupt.
  3. Enact legislation forcing the Economic Development Corporations to be as transparent as the government agencies they truly are. The EDCs, generally one for each county, are non-profit corporations set up locally, to bring business and development to that county. They are, because they are private corporations, allowed to act in secret, as the Adams County EDC did several years ago in an attempt to bring a WalMart distribution Center to the Hunterstown Exit of US 15.
  4. Enact legislation making the local EDCs answerable to the local population via referendum. The Adams County EDC continues to beat the bushes to bring big businesses to Adams County in the name of progress and jobs, even though Adams County perennially has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. If only they were as effective up state where some counties are struggling with 8 percent unemployment rates.
  5. If Governor Rendell insists on pursuing Acts 71 and 72 farther, institute a recall for his removal from office.
  6. Recall all the Straban Township Supervisors. (see any number of previous blogs on “The Strabaddies”).
  7. Recall the Adams County Commissioners as they have been totally invisible throughout all of this Casino and Straban land-grab business.

It is time for the legislature to go back to representing the people, instead of themselves. It is time for the people to hold their elected officials accountable on all levels, from the townships to the governor’s mansion. If they are unfit for office, throw them out. Do NOT wait for the next election.

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