Wednesday, November 23, 2005

67: “A Champion Arises!”

It appears the citizenry of Straban Township has become aroused at last. In addition to gathering a petition against the proposed casino, in response to a statement by “Strabaddies” Jay McDannell, Michael Spangler, and Troy Martin that they would accede to their resident’s wishes regarding the casino, the Straban Township citizens banded together to form an activist committee, Concerned Citizens of Straban Township. CCST conducted their own poll of strictly Straban Township residents, and found 75-80% opposed the casino. They gathered over 600 signatures. The plan is to present the petition to the Supervisors at their regular meeting on December 5.

Hold the phone! It seems there is movement afoot by the "The Strabaddies" to perhaps circumvent the process. Word leaked out at the last supervisors meeting that "The Strabaddies", and their attorney, Walton “Big Wally” Davis, will meet “for informational reasons only”, with representatives of Chance Enterprises, the group of investors behind the proposed casino, on December 1.

CCST has employed an attorney of their own. With financial help from the good folks at No Casino Gettysburg, and The Civil War Preservation Trust, they have engaged Andrew J. Giorgione of the Harrisburg law firm of Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling.

Mr. Giorgione sent the following letter to "The Strabaddies" :

Dear Supervisors Spangler, Martin & McDannell:

We represent Concerned Citizens of Straban Township and No Casino Gettysburg.

At the regular Straban Township Supervisors meeting held on November 7, 2005, the supervisors mentioned that they have a meeting scheduled with Chance Enterprises on December 1, 2005. Upon inquiring at the township office, our clients were advised that the three Supervisors will be present along with township solicitor Walton Davis, Esquire; however, the meeting is not open to the public since it is intended to be informational.

We believe that any such meeting with a private business interest should be announced and held publicly in order to be in compliance with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act (65 Pa.C.S. § 701 et seq.). Regardless of whether any official decisions are reached during this meeting, subsequent decisions may be based on or influenced by discussions held in private with Chance Enterprises. The public has the right to hear and participate in these discussions concerning such an important matter to the township.

Even assuming your legal interpretation of the Sunshine Act is correct, that this will only to be an informational meeting and does not have to be an open meeting, a point we dispute, given the highly publicized matters to be discussed and the heightened interest expressed by the citizens in and around the Township, at the very least, the Township should refrain from conducting any private meetings with this developer in order to avoid the appearance of bias or improper influence and to subject this project to full public participation.

We request that the Township Supervisors either cancel the meeting with Chance Enterprises or reschedule the December 1 meeting as a public special or regular session that is announced and open to the public.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Andrew J. Giorgione

Folks, we saw the power of citizen activism in the last election when it took the unseating of a State Supreme Court Justice to convince our legislators to repeal their ill-conceived, ill-gotten pay raise. Now we are seeing the power of citizen activism on the local level.

It isn’t just the casino, either. The good citizens of Straban are exceedingly angry at being ill used by their own supervisors, "The Strabaddies", in the enormous development plans those supervisors have made for the township. The reclassification of almost 80% of the township’s open and farm land last spring by "The Strabaddies" to allow it all to be developed was an enormous slap in the face to the farmers of Straban Township, one of the most agricultural townships in the state! This wretched excess of power, and usurpation of property rights is not the first time "The Strabaddies" have run afoul of their own citizens. Test wells pumping tens of thousands of gallons of water to the surface daily during construction of the new Reliant Energy plant and the new county prison ran local farmers’ wells dry in the middle of a drought. The County sent their solicitor out to defuse the issue, but all he did was fail to mislead the public that had gathered at a township meeting.

It warms the very heart of GettysBLOG to see these good folks standing up to the arrogant supervisors. This defeat, and the one they just suffered with the easement placed on the long-coveted Daniel Lady Farm are a pair of black eyes on the face of Straban Township’s supervisors. It’s all late, but none too soon.

GettysBLOG has long said the casino is not just a bad idea here in Gettysburg, the whole gaming law, Act 71 of 2004 is a bad idea for Pennsylvania. It puts too many lives at risk…risk of addictions, risk of family problems, risk of societal problems. And it does not answer the problems of budget shortfalls sufficiently (or honestly) enough to provide property tax relief.

Civic activism does work. People DO have the power to affect change in the way their government does things, and to enforce accountability on that government.

"The Strabaddies" want to have a secret meeting with the folks from Chance Enterprises. What, exactly, do they have to hide? Have they forgotten they are the elected servants of the people? They owe their constituents honesty and openness.

“Those who have something to hide live in the darkness of fear in their hearts. Those who have nothing to hide need not fear the light.”
--GettysBLOG

Three cheers for Tim and Sharon Hamm and their partners at Concerned Citizens of Straban Township. And three more for the able assistance provided to them by No Casino Gettysburg, and our great friends at the Civil War Preservation Trust.

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"--GettysBLOG

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“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”

“Arrogance is a fool’s disease!”

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