Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Predictions for November election

I've been thinking a lot about pundits lately. What exactly is a pundit anyway? How do you become a pundit? Is there a pundit club you can join? Are there membership dues? Is there a secret initiation?

I see a lot of people on TV who are described as pundits, but most of the time they don't know what they're talking about. A lot of college professors are often referred to as pundits, but I wonder about them. Some of these so-called intellectuals have been so isolated from the real world for so long, it's hard for them to tell night from day.

The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a pundit as: "A person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner, usually through the mass media." That sounds like me. I work for a newspaper. I've been on more than a dozen radio programs this year. I've been on the Pennsylvania Cable Network twice in the past three months. I'm sure this qualifies me as a pundit.

The one thing the definition of pundit doesn't cover is whether pundits have to be right more often than they’re wrong. A lot of pundits get things wrong.

The pundits never thought the outrage over the July 2005 legislative pay raise would last more than a few weeks. It's 13 months later and we’re still talking about the pay raise. At least I am. The pundits didn't think it was possible for a Pennsylvania judge to lose a retention vote, but tell that to former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro, who was tossed out by more than 800,000 voters in November 2005. The pundits said the legislature would never repeal the pay raise, but the politicians did just that.

A prominent Pennsylvania pundit kept saying right up to the May 2006 primary that only a handful of incumbent legislators would lose. Wrong again. Seventeen lawmakers lost in the primary, including the top two Republican leaders in the state Senate. Considering that the re-election rate for Pennsylvania legislators had been 98 percent, the defeat of 17 incumbents was a political seismic shock. And don’t forget that 30 other legislators "retired" instead of facing the voters.

Now the pundits are saying that Gov. Ed Rendell will coast to re-election this November. The pundits also say that Rick Santorum's days in the U.S. Senate are numbered. They also see Democrats winning control of the U.S. House and Senate.

As someone who's been right so far about the political winds of change in Pennsylvania, I'd like to offer my predictions for the coming elections.

Pennsylvania governor
Gov. Ed Rendell will lose to Lynn Swann. Forget the polls. The only poll that matters is on Election Day. Rendell has broken his promise to cut taxes, has saddled Pennsylvania with the worst gambling law in the country and Pennsylvania has become a more dangerous place to live because of Rendell's neglect of crime. Philadelphia will set a new homicide record this year. Reading, Allentown and Lancaster are places you don't want to be when the sun goes down. All those catchy tourism ads won't change the fact that the average Pennsylvanian is far worse off today than he was four years ago.

U.S. Senate
Sen. Rick Santorum will defeat Bob Casey Jr. The more you know about Casey, the less there is to like about this clueless ultra-liberal career bureaucrat. The U.S. Senate is no place for on-the-job training and Casey needs a lot more schooling. Casey's only foreign policy experience is visiting the Jersey Shore.

6th Congressional District
This is my home district, so I'm paying close attention to it. Rep. Jim Gerlach will beat back challenger Lois Murphy, who is even more liberal than Casey. Murphy wants to raise taxes, force socialized medicine on us and push her radical social agenda in Congress. We already have Hillary Clinton to do that. Murphy's shrill attacks and distortions of Gerlach's record has grown tiresome with voters in the 6th District.

Other Congressional races
Several other Republican congressmen, namely Curt Weldon, Mike Fitzpatrick, Charlie Dent and Joe Pitts, will return to Washington. I see one incumbent from the Pennsylvania delegation (Don Sherwood) losing, but I also think Democrat John Murtha, leader of the "cut-and-run" brigade on Iraq, will lose. Murtha is an embarrassment to Pennsylvania and the nation.

Control of Congress
Forget what the pundits keep saying. The House and the Senate will remain in Republican control, although the GOP will probably lose a few seats in each chamber. Despite President Bush's poor job approval numbers and his bungling of Iraq, Americans understand there's too much at stake to hand over Congress to the Democrats.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Russ Diamond: PA Supreme Court to Decide Fate of the World

When is an election not an election? What is a “qualified elector?”

These two simple questions may play a pivotal role in what some observers are calling the most important political race on the planet. The answers could very well be the difference in Pennsylvania’s US Senate race and the future of not just America, but the entire world.

Republican incumbent Rick Santorum has openly admitted aiding Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli in his Herculean effort to obtain ballot access. Democrats, fearing Romanelli’s presence will siphon potential votes from their candidate, Bob Casey, Jr., filed an objection to nearly 70,000 of the over 94,000 signatures Romanelli collected.

Since August 14, operatives from all three camps have been hunkered down in a dreary office at the Department of State in Harrisburg, comparing Romanelli’s petitions to records within the SURE database, the state’s new electronic voter registration system. The atmosphere in the room is thick with tension, and tempers at one point flared into a physical altercation.

But the entire tedious and time consuming effort may be rendered moot, depending on the state Supreme Court’s opinions on the two aforementioned questions. These are matters of “first impression,” as no Pennsylvania court has previously offered an opinion on either question.

On the first question, Romanelli attorney Lawrence M. Otter moved and argued in Commonwealth Court that the total number of signatures required to put Romanelli on the ballot should be based on Sandra Newman’s 2005 state Supreme Court retention rather than Casey’s 2004 victory in the state Treasurer’s race, effectively lowering the signature requirement from 67,070 to 15,949.

While the Democrats and the Department of State both maintain that a judicial retention is not an election per se, neither was able to refer to it without calling it a “retention election” in their arguments before President Judge James Gardner Colins. Colins denied Otter’s motion, but virtually welcomed an appeal by inferring in his opinion that the law is subject to a wide range of interpretations.

Otter’s appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was filed on August 28. If successful, the Democrats’ objection would be null and void, as they have essentially stipulated to nearly 25,000 of Romanelli’s signatures by not challenging them in their objection.

The second question could have even more far-reaching implications and would settle an argument which has been raging among the ballot access crowd for years. It is commonly held that individuals who sign or circulate nominating papers in Pennsylvania must be registered voters. However, both the preamble for signers and the circulator’s affidavit on such papers for minor party and independent candidates only requires those persons to be “qualified electors.”

Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution sets forth the “Qualifications of Electors” as being based on age, U.S. citizenship and residency. No mention is made of being a registered voter.

If the Court rules in favor of the plain language of the Constitution, not only would the current challenge to Romanelli be in serious jeopardy, but the ability of anyone to challenge a minor party or independent petition in the future would be severely hampered. Without the ability to rely on the statewide voter database - the SURE system - to validate signatures, how could a potential challenge even be formulated?

Future efforts by minor party and independent candidates to gather signatures to overcome Pennsylvania’s ballot access hurdles would be bolstered, adding the important element of competition to the electoral process. Those candidates would no longer need to worry over whether a signer has matched letter-for-letter their information on file with the Department of State.

The more immediate implications of these two questions, however, may be far greater. Santorum, if re-elected, could potentially become Senate Majority Leader or run for President of the United States. If Casey is elected, he would merely be Pennsylvania’s junior Senator aligned with that body’s minority party. While a Romanelli victory would be historic in its own right, his mere presence on the ballot will make this race a nail-biter.

The fate of the world could very well lie in the hands of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, who have been under fire of late for allegedly not interpreting the state’s Constitution at face value. Every citizen should pay very close attention to the Court on these two questions.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

193: “The world …can never forget what they did here.”


In the fight over the casino project at Gettysburg, the argument has often been made that the soldiers themselves would frequent the casino had it been here during the Battle.

Well, the casino was not here during the Battle, but later in the nineteenth century there were dance halls and gambling parlors, along with the requisite houses of ill repute smack dab on Little Round Top. That’s right, on Little Round Top. They probably weren’t much more than what you would have seen out west at the time, a wooden platform, with a large canvas tent, and perhaps a wooden front. And no, Dan Sickles probably was not involved.

Indeed, Sickles, who lost his leg commanding the Third Corps at the Battle here, had quite a different effect on the Battlefield. So did Samuel Wiley Crawford, who commanded the Pennsylvania Reserves Division in the sweep down off Little Round Top and across the Valley of Death on July 2, pushing the Confederates of Longstreet’s Division back over Houck’s Ridge and across the Wheatfield.

Sickles, in spite of later embezzling funds for his own Third Corps monument at Gettysburg, was a driving force in Congress to get Federal dollars for Battlefield preservation. Samuel Wiley Crawford led a group of veterans in the effort to acquire the land on Little Round Top and removed the ‘dens of iniquity’ perched thereon. This group was also instrumental in driving the trolley line that bisected the Battlefield from the ‘sacred ground’. In 12 foot squares, one at a time the men bought the land and eventually had enough to force their will on the local entrepreneurs who were running their ‘businesses’ on the memory of the men who fought and died here. They used their own money when Federal and State funds were not available.

So the next time someone tells you the men who fought here would have visited the casino during the Battle, you can tell them two things:

First, they didn’t have time, as the battle continued overnight on July 2-3, and they would have been too exhausted from marching, fighting and caring for the wounded. Fighting battles was a serious, physically and emotionally draining business.

Second, as noted above, the men themselves drove such institutions from the Battlefield in a very determined effort to ensure that the world “…can never forget what they did here.”

Why anyone, let alone a local resident, would join a plan to sully that memory and that effort, defies all logic.

What a wreck of human life doth greed make.

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We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --

THE CENTRIST

“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

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
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Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Repost of First 2 GettysBLOG Essays

What follows is the promised re-posting of our first two blog essays from April, 2005. We have done some minor editing on the second one for continuity's sake:

01: "If You Build it They Will Come"
This is not a site that is friendly to development. I suppose that means it will not be friendly to most of the currently serving politicians in Adams County, or to their developer-friendly newspaper, The Gettysburg Times ("All the news that fits the development plans"). What you see here you will likely never see in the Times. In fact, I am sure it will be studiously ignored by the Times.

Adams County is a solid "red county" on the political map. John Kerry had about as much support here in the last election as Abe Lincoln did in Charleston, SC. I suspect there were more folks involved in breaking the glass door of Republican campaign headquarters than actually voted for Kerry in Adams County.

Being a conservative area has come to mean it is developer friendly, especially if the area is largely agricultural and has been for a long time. Neighboring Lancaster and York Counties have been under the jackboot of runaway development for decades. Now Adams County, the Apple Capital of Pennsylvania, and home to many of the large "Dutch" farms that overfed the invading Confederates in 1863, is in the hands of the developers. Why is this pattern happening?

Because of the relative nearness of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, MD, and other, smaller cities such as Frederick, Hagerstown, and Westminster, MD, the prime farmland in south-central Pennsylvania, the same farmland that fed the American Revolution, is under assault by developers seeking to build high priced luxury bedroom communities for people who work in the aforementioned cities and towns. Huge farm tracts converted to enormous housing developments are already in the works. One developer wanted to put almost 1200 houses on 440 acres and call it an "Equine Community". If one does the math, one is left wondering where the "equines" of this community are going to live when each house gets a little over one-third of an acre! Over 400 houses are planned for the gorgeous woods along southbound US 15 between York Street (US 30) and Hanover Street (PA 116) east of town. The Fairfield area is under seige by Wormold Development of Maryland, planners of the "Equine Community". They have pulled in their horns and now increased their lot size average to an acre.

Lest you think this is going to be affordable housing, allow me to disabuse you of that notion here and now. These homes will start at a quarter of a million dollars. Each. Ouch! This is not low cost, affordable houses for the masses, ladies and gents, these are small palaces for the elite of the Nation's Capital, essentially. If you can't afford a Georgetown address, surely you will be able to afford a Gettysburg address. So you can readily see what is driving the development. But this drive develops more than houses, It pushes ethics and morality to the very brink.

The aging farmers in our surrounds have every right in the world to sell their farms when they become too old to keep farming, and their children would prefer not to farm. Agricultural buyers for these situations are rare. Further, the prices they would pay for the farms are often not what the farm should bring, certainly not worthy of a lifetime of dust and mud, raising crops, tending to animals, and doing all the farm things required to be successful. Farming, the world's second oldest professtion behind hunting, is indeed a noble and worthy endeavor to which many dedicate their entire lifetime, and succeeding generations have done so for centuries around here. But times change. When the farmer sells, he also has the right to get top dollar for his property. And the one market that will pay the farmer that money is developers. They'll pay four to ten times what the farm is really worth. Can you imagine what kind of profits that land will generate for the developer if he is willing to pay that kind of money? And who would deny the farmer the right to that money?

Well, there are some who think the farmer owes something to the community with which he has been in a cooperative relationship since Eve took her first bite of an Adams County apple. And herein lies the rub. The remaining community, those who will be left behind to deal with the "Equine Communities", or as the local township supervisors are now calling them: PRDs (Planned Residential Developments), are the people who will be faced with an enormously increased tax burden to pay for the infrastructure and more (see next GettysBLOG!). One of the selling points the developers will emphasize in their sales brochures for their PRDs is low taxes. And they are, relatively, low here. But they will not remain low very long.

Four hundred new homes in two townships south of Gettysburg, four to six hundred in another township north of Gettysburg, and four hundred east of Gettysburg in still another township, plus a new "Golfing Community" and expansion of the existing "Golfing Community" southeast of Gettysburg, will provide more brand new houses in the immediate suburbs of Gettysburg than currently exist in Gettysburg.

At two-point-whatever kids per home, for example, we are going to see an increase of around 3,000 new students in the schools here. (Does anyone now harbor any doubts why the Gettysburg Area School District built that oversized Taj Mahal called "The New High School" north of town? And how long ago was that planned? Are we feeling queasy yet?) After all of this, I have an admission to make that might scare a few politicians, at least for a while. I am a Republican. Why should they worry about that, you ask? Because if I am thinking these things, other Republicans are too, and that threatens to end a status quo that has existed here for far too long a time.

And wait until we start talking about commercial development! (Why do we need twenty movie theater screens in Gettysburg, less than five miles apart at two exits along Route 15?) Now that I've whet your appetite, read the next GettysBLOG to see what I think should happen.

GettysBLOG
02: "Here's a Deal for Developers:
[This was taken from a letter to the editors of the local newspapers.]

"Okay Wormold, A&S, Sites, and the rest of the Adams County Developers, here’s the deal: how about, for the next twenty years, we’ll maintain the taxes at their current rates, or lower, while you pay the difference for the new roads, widening and repaving of current roads, storm drains and sewers, runoff studies, water use studies, water supply expansions, sewage treatment plant expansions and additions, water and sewer lines and hookups, curbs and sidewalks, fire hydrant installations, traffic lights, street lights, gas main extensions, school additions, new schools, and increased school administrative staff and faculty, books and supplies. While we’re at it, new fire and police facilities, additional officers, patrol cars, firemen, fire and rescue vehicles, and ambulances, and the personnel to man and drive them, new and expanded municipal buildings, more municipal staff, snow plows, road workers, mowers, recreation facilities, increased 911 staff, and the likely needed addition to the brand new county prison that increased population will require. Oh, and there will be the inevitable expansion of the Hospital to handle the increased patient load, and that means an expensive effort to bring more physicians and nurses to the area, to say nothing of all those expensive Hospital Administrators, health insurers, and additional private practice physicians and specialists. The Courthouse will need two more courtrooms and two more judges to man them. Goodness, all of that is going to require a local Public Transit system as well. All those buses on our streets and back roads. Gosh, even the commercial and industrial base will boom, requiring more building, more transportation, perhaps even a cross-county expressway to hook up Routes 83 and 81. It would be “Gettysburg Bypass”. That’s all going to require more State Police coverage, so you better promise to take on any state tax increases as well.

All the folks you add to our county census as residents are not even going to come close to covering the costs in taxes.

Who else can we turn to in order to pay for all these increased services we’ll need to cover the people you are importing to our county? I certainly don't want to pay for all of that. I don't think there are many folks who do, either.

Maybe you can work a deal with the School Boards and promise to pick up the slack they are sure is going to occur when they surrender taxing authority to the taxpayers under Act 72!

While all these townships and county administrators are exhibiting such largesse to the developers, perhaps they had better take a good hard look at what the taxpayers are thinking about down the road."

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Copyright © 2005-2006, GettysBLOG. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

DEVELOPERS ILLEGALLY BULLDOZE NPS LAND

This is just in from our friends at the Civil War Preservation Trust. This serves as a notice here that developers in general are never to be trusted. When they say there will be enough water for a development, or that the roads are okay to handle the increased traffic, they are generally lying through their teeth.

Here is the press release [in its entirety] about this awful insult to all Americans:

Civil War Preservation Trust
For Immediate Release
August 23, 2006

DEVELOPERS ILLEGALLY BULLDOZE NPS LAND AT HARPERS FERRY

Historic School House Ridge Battlefield at Harpers Ferry Violated This Weekend

(Harpers Ferry, W.Va.) – The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) issued a statement today in response to the illegal bulldozing of a portion of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this past weekend by a handful of local developers. Purposely and without permission, the developers dug a deep trench through historic land owned by the National Park Service and the American people.

“Beginning on the morning of August 19, 2006, a group of local developers moved heavy machinery and work crews onto the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and proceeded to lay water and sewer pipes on historic land where Stonewall Jackson launched one of the most brilliant tactical triumphs of the Civil War,” said CWPT President James Lighthizer. “The developers had neither authority nor the permits necessary to do this.”

The purpose of the water and sewer line is to facilitate a planned development of approximately 3,400 houses proposed for construction both inside and adjacent to the Park Service boundary. To date, the developers have not received any local approvals necessary for this development to proceed.

“These developers knowingly and defiantly ignored federal laws regarding construction on public land,” said Joy Oakes, Senior NPCA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. “Americans have a right to expect that land protected by the Park Service cannot be bulldozed outside of an orderly and legal review. We encourage federal and state law enforcement officials to pursue these violators to the fullest extent of the law.”

For several years, CWPT and NPCA have been leaders in an extraordinary and successful effort to protect historic lands at Harpers Ferry. With the support of local business owners, civil rights leaders, conservationists, history buffs, recreation enthusiasts, heritage tourism interests, and elected officials, Congress expanded the park’s boundary in 2004. Millions in federal grants as well as private funds have been raised to purchase land from willing sellers to add to the national park.

“We are horrified at this premeditated and unprecedented desecration of School House Ridge,” said Lighthizer. “For several years, CWPT and NPCA have been working with federal and state officials to protect this property. Last year CWPT appealed to our members to help raise the $1.5 million needed to acquire the site bulldozed this weekend for preservation. We are outraged, and expect immediate restitution from these developers.”

As the developers were running their bulldozers last weekend, hundreds gathered from across the country to participate in a National Park Service-hosted commemoration of the centennial of a meeting at Harpers Ferry in 1906 that laid the cornerstone of the modern-day civil rights movement.

CWPT is a 75,000-member nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. Over the years, CWPT has saved more than 23,000 acres of hallowed ground, including 325 acres on the Harpers Ferry Battlefield.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 325,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.
------------------------------------------
When things like this happen elsewhere, one has to think about them happening here as well. We wrote our very first two essays on GettysBLOG on April 22, 2005, entitled "01: If You Build It They Will Come", and "02 Here's a Deal for Developers". We will re-post them here tomorrow combined as one post. You can click on the titles above to read them now.

GettysBLOG

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --

THE CENTRIST

“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

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Stuck in a state of frustration, Part II

Maybe it's the heat, but I'm still fuming about the state of affairs in Pennsylvania. So I'm going to continue the rant I began a few days ago.

The Associated Press reports that a number of high-profile Pennsylvania politicians have received more than $760,000 in campaign contributions from law firms and lobbyists representing the 22 applicants for slot-machine parlor licenses in the state. (That figure is for Jan. 1 to June 5 of this year, the most recent reporting period.) I know we forced the state legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell give back the money they lavished on themselves with the infamous July 2005 pay raise, but how appropriate is it for politicians to be accepting so much money from casino interests? At the very top of the list of recipients is Republican state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, who received $62,500 in casino money. He is followed closely by Gov. Rendell, who pocketed $60,000 from the friends of the casinos. Coming in third is Republican Speaker of the House John Perzel, who got $46,000. These three men also were the driving force behind the legislative pay grab of 2005. Pennsylvania would be so much better off without this trio in charge. Jubelirer was knocked out in the primary. Do yourself a favor and help get rid of Rendell and Perzel. Don't shed a tear for any of them. With all the money the gambling industry has invested in Rendell, Perzel and Jubelirer, I'm sure each has a lucrative casino job waiting for them.
***
Four lesser-known politicos are also on the list of top recipients of casino money. Sen. Vince Fumo received $29,500. Fumo was in the news recently when it was revealed that he spent more than $1.2 million in taxpayer and campaign funds to pay lawyers to defend him against a corruption probe by the FBI. You see Fumo is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee and he decided the best way to spend $1,031,700 or your tax dollars was on lawyers to help keep Fumo out of the clutches of the FBI. Your tax dollars at work. Isn't it nice when you can use other people's money to defend yourself against charges that you’ve betrayed the public trust? Only in Pennsylvania.
***
Rep. Sam Smith, the No. 2 Republican in the House, received $29,000 from the casinos. Rep. Mike Veon, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, received $26,500. Smith thinks he's going to fill Perzel's shows when Perzel is sent to the back of the room by his fellow Republicans, but Smith has been Perzel's errand boy way too long. There's going to be a new batch of legislators going to Harrisburg in January 2007 and their first duty is to fumigate the place. Veon, in addition to providing comedy relief as the sidekick of Rep. Bill DeWeese, the top Democrat in the House, also has the distinction of being the only member of the House to vote against the repeal of the 2005 pay grab. What do all these politicians have in common? They love money. Our money. They love to spend it. They love to waste it. They like to lavish it on themselves. They like to raise our taxes so they can have more of our money to spend. Every incumbent who accepted money from the casinos should return it. If they refuse, vote them out.
***
If you've been wondering how the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board could spend between $50 million and $100 million (nobody knows the exact amount) in less than a year, you might want to take a look at the board's payroll. That's what Michael Race, the Harrisburg bureau chief for the Times-Shamrock newspaper group in the Scranton area, did recently, compiling a detailed list of how much our newest "public servants" are earning. It's costing taxpayers $11.5 million a year to cover the salaries of the Gaming Board. In a story headline, "Gaming board ranking in fat paychecks," Race found that 25 appointed officials and top staffers at the Gaming Board each earn more than $100,000 a year. Nearly one-third of the agency's 170 employees pocket more than the $72,187-a-year base pay for state lawmakers, who felt voters' wrath after they briefly boosted their salaries last year, Race says. The average annual salary for a gaming board employee is $67,400 — about double Pennsylvania's per capita income of $33,257, according to state census data. Here's some more gems from Race's investigation: Anne LeCour Neeb, the board's executive director, makes $180,011. She is followed in the pay rankings by board chairman Thomas "Tad" Decker, who makes $150,006. The board's six other voting members earn $145,018 each. Your tax dollars in action, folks.

Even before the first casino license has been issued, we know who's already made out like one-arm bandits: Politicians and their cronies.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

192: In Memoriam Representative Steve Maitland

We must not forget Steve Maitland, the man who sacrificed a career as a politician and his personal integrity in the name of personal greed. Maitland, you’ll remember, was dumped by his constituency in the May Republican Primary Election this year because he voted for last summer’s unconstitutional pay raise, accepted the money unconstitutionally early via a Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy-contrived ‘unvouchered expense’, and then not only refused to give the money back but also defended keeping it because it would make him a better legislator because he used it for his law school tuition (despite rumors that it went toward a backyard pool, instead).

Now it is long past time to end his nonsense and pay the money back, file an amended Federal Income Tax return (If indeed he paid taxes on the money!), and make sure his retirement (which this blogger firmly believes he does not deserve!) is adjusted accordingly.

Voters across the state signaled their extreme anger in last November’s General Election when they unseated Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro, and almost threw out fellow Justice Sandra Newman. That was not enough to assuage voter anger over the raise. In addition to approximately 30 legislators who decided not to seek their party’s nomination via the Primary process, signaling they were taking the money and running in some cases, there were a dozen and a half incumbents ousted in the Primary itself! That means there will be a minimum of nearly 50 new members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in January.

Steve Maitland will not be there to welcome them.

If the voters' anger is not enough to convince Steve Maitland that he is dead wrong on this matter, then he is farther gone over to the dark side than previously suspected. No one should be as oblivious to the ethical and moral tenets that Maitland has violated, least of all Maitland, an aspiring lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 14 years. Perhaps that last part is the problem…he was too long in the legislature and lost his moral and ethical compass.

Maitland broke the faith with his constituents by his actions over this issue. He needs to atone for his sins, and in the process stop sticking it to his constituents. He must repay the money, all of it, and see to it that he makes no gain from it ever being there in the first place…that is, in particular, any money added to his retirement fund as a result of the “unvouchered expense” that he received.

Steve Maitland owes the voters who supported him in the past at least that much, and he owes it to his family to do the right thing, setting the proper moral and ethical example for his children, and removing the embarrassing yoke of shame-by-association from his wife. Even more, he needs to repay the money so that for the rest of his life, every morning when he shaves, the man he sees in the mirror can look him straight in the eye.

GettysBLOG

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --

THE CENTRIST

“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

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Stuck in a state of frustration

I've got a lot on my mind today so here goes.

Gov. Ed Rendell is spending millions of dollars in television ads to brag about how Pennsylvania's economy is booming under his leadership. Just the other day, Forbes magazine published its annual list of "Best States for Business." Where did Ed Rendell's Pennsylvania rank? It came in 41 out of 50. The Keystone State finished right behind Alabama. That's not something to brag about. Forbes ranked the states based on such categories as economic climate, business costs, crime rates, taxes and quality of life. So who are you going to believe? A politician who would say anything to get re-elected or a prestigious national business publication that has no ax to grind?
***
Another disturbing revelation about how Rendell does business came out in the Allentown Morning Call. The newspaper reported that state officials want taxpayers to help pay for promoting slots parlors. The Governor's Tourism Partnership thinks that casinos will be a big draw for out-of-state visitors, but until those casinos start making money, taxpayers should chip in to help promote the gambling palaces. I don't know about you, but I don't want my tax dollars going to help poor Donald Trump or any other multibillion-dollar corporation that operate casinos. It's bad enough that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has spent somewhere between $50 million to $100 million so far and has yet to award a single license, but why should the state's beleaguered taxpayers have to chip in for Rendell’s latest corporate welfare scheme?
***
And speaking of the hapless Gaming Board, did you see how quickly it reversed its policy of keeping secret the identities of potential casino owners? The Associated Press reported Monday that the agency had concluded that the 2-year-old state law that legalized slot machines barred it from releasing the information. Imagine that. The people of Pennsylvania don't have a right to know who has ownership stakes in the lucrative casinos. What does the Gaming Board have to hide? Is Rendell’s Aunt Gertrude one of the owners? Is the Gaming Board trying to protect the privacy of mobsters or convicted felons? Do state legislators and their relatives own a piece of the pie? Thanks to the public outrage over the secrecy, state gambling regulators announced Wednesday that they would reverse their policy and will, in fact, release documents showing the potential owners of Pennsylvania casinos. The information will be posted on the Gaming Board's Web site starting Monday. The culture of corruption involving the licensing of casinos in this state is astounding. To keep up with the latest shenanigans involving casinos, check out CasinoFreePa.org And while you're there, you may want to sign the group's petition to put a stop to the casino debacle.
***
Does anyone else think it's obscene to be paying a state worker nearly $500,000 a year? The chief executive of Pennsylvania's college student-loan agency, PHEAA, made $469,900 in 2005, about 7 percent more than the previous year, according to The Patriot-News of Harrisburg. Richard Willey was paid $290,000 in salary and earned a bonus of nearly $179,900, according to the newspaper. That makes Mr. Willey the highest-paid employee in state government, earning about three times as much as the governor. Imagine how many deserving students could attend college if the $500,000 was used for loans or grants instead of fattening the wallet of one individual. And it doesn't just stop with Mr. Willey. PHEEA's six vice presidents also received bonuses ranging from $110,700 to $113,100 for a total compensation of about $330,000 per person, the newspaper reported. Bonuses for those top executives total $852,835 — enough to give the maximum individual grant of $4,500 to 189 college students, according to the newspaper. PHEEA is also notorious for sending its workers on expensive trips and lavishing them with gifts.
***
When it comes to government, Ed Rendell and I differ in a crucial area. I believe government should not be making a profit from its citizens. A budget surplus means government is collecting too much in taxes. That money should be returned to the people. If Mr. Willey thinks he should be paid like a corporate executive, let him take his skills to the private sector. If he wants to be in public service and help send more Pennsylvania students to college, he should return the bonus money to increase the pool of available grants and loans. I'm sick of politicians and their millionaire pals living lifestyles of the rich and famous on the backs of taxpayers. Election Day is Nov. 7. If you want real change, Rendell and most of the state Legislature must be voted out of office on that day.
***
I'll be back on the radio Monday at 4 p.m. on WPAZ 1370 AM. Listeners are invited to call in to the Nick Lawrence Show with questions or comments about current issues. The one-hour program can also be heard live over the Internet at www.1370wpaz.com. Just click on the "live audio" button at the top of the station's Web site and follow instructions.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Democracy Rising Update

Democracy Rising PA News
August 11, 2006
tim@democracyrisingpa.com
717-243-8570

In this issue:
· Tick, Tick, Tick
· Another Repeal Needed

· Can’t These Guys Think for Themselves?


Tick, Tick, Tick
· Days since the pay raise of 2005: 401
· Days until Election Day: 87
· Roadmap reforms enacted: 0

See the complete Roadmap to Reform and its sponsoring organizations: click on the thumbprint!

Roadmap to Reform

Another Repeal Needed
Last year, PA citizens accomplished the impossible by forcing lawmakers to repeal the pay raise (even though lawmakers kept the unvouchered expenses, pension bumps and COLAs).

Now, with two years of experience under our belts, it’s time to repeal Pennsylvania’s slots law, according to none other than one of its architects, Sen. Vince Fumo, D-Philadelphia. Interviewed on the Marty Griffin Show on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh, Fumo said he would support repeal as an alternative to simply making changes to the law.

To be clear, Democracy Rising PA has never taken a position on slots gambling. Our concern is, and always has been, that lawmakers violated the Constitution when they passed the law in the dead of night on the 4th of July weekend in 2004. They gutted a two-page bill and replaced every word with 146 pages of new language. Because there were no public hearings on the final version, ordinary citizens never had the chance to see it until it was too late.

A year later, our Supreme Court OK’d at least three clear violations of the state Constitution in the way the law was passed, and two weeks later the General Assembly used the exact same procedure to pass the pay raise. Voters expressed their dissatisfaction with the Court’s misinterpretation of the Constitution by defeating Justice Russell Nigro for retention on the Court – the first appellate court judge to suffer such a defeat in PA history.

Last month, Casino Free PA,
www.casinofreepa.org, launched a drive to repeal the slots law. Coordinator Diane Berlin said, “We’ve seen the ugly underbelly of the casino beast exposed during the last two years in Pennsylvania. Lobbyists and people with shady backgrounds have run the show, the state Gaming Control Board has shown itself to be unfit for its job, and the promises of so-called tax relief get fainter every day.”

“Now is the time to tell our legislators to repeal the slots [law], before any casino licenses are awarded, and, if they still want to dump slots in PA, do it the right way.”

A repeal bill, House Bill 2298, has 33 co-sponsors [click
here for more info
.]

Among the problems with the gambling law and the Gaming Board so far, according to Casino Free PA, are:

· One Gaming Board employee is accused of killing a Harrisburg woman and two others were arrested for starting fights in Harrisburg bars.
· The Gaming Board has already exceeded its budget and now relies on a $7.3 million transfer of funds from other programs, authorized by Gov. Ed Rendell in a way that some claim violated the Constitution. To do this, the state Revenue Department has proposed “temporary regulations.” Not surprisingly, the slots gambling law makes these regulations “exempt from review under the Regulatory Review Act” (quoting a letter from the Revenue Department) so that citizens are shut out of the process once again.
· Lawmakers are still allowed to own up to 1 percent of a casino operator’s business. However, the Gaming Board refuses to release who owns how big a share of the companies seeking slots licenses, making it impossible for citizens to know how big an interest each lawmaker – or anyone else -- actually has.
· The original law prohibited local communities from having any say in where slots parlors are located. While this provision was overturned by the Supreme Court, some lawmakers have introduced legislation to restore control exclusively to the Gaming Board.

Sign up! Speak up! Show up!
Casino Free PA has launched a petition drive. To get a petition drive kit, go to
CasinoFreePA.

Questions:
· Did your lawmakers vote for the gambling law?
· Will they work to repeal it before licenses are issued?
· If they support slots gambling, will they insist that any new law go through a Constitutional process of public hearings and open debate before enactment?

Can’t These Guys Think for Themselves?
On July 23, the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann issued a news release titled, “Roadmap to Reform.”

Sound familiar? It is. It’s the name that advocates for greater integrity gave to our agenda back on May 25. See “Tick, Tick, Tick” above.

We thought we’d let this little bit of plagiarism slide until Harrisburg reporter Michael Race of the Times-Shamrock News reported this item:

When state Treasurer Bob Casey announced a bus tour in June to promote his candidacy for U.S. Senate, his campaign dubbed it the “New Direction” tour. The goal, according to the campaign, was for Mr. Casey to “travel the state and … share his ideas about steering Pennsylvania and the country in a new direction.”In other words, a different direction than the one charted by incumbent U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, the Republican Mr. Casey hopes to unseat.This week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann released a book outlining his plan for Pennsylvania as he works to oust incumbent Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. The book’s title?

A New Direction.”

For the full story, go to The Daily Review article.

Tim Potts, Co-Founder, Democracy Rising PA

Thanks, Tim.

Everyone should know our feelings about the Gambling Bill by now. We urge you all in the stongest terms to contact your State Representative and your State Senator and get them off their butts and on board the Repeal Legislation!

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Support Russ Diamond for Governor!

Support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST

“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

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Self-serving politicians are everywhere

I spent a few days at the Jersey Shore last week.

New Jersey gets a bad rap on many things, but I noticed during my visit that Jersey does some things better than Pennsylvania.

New Jersey roads are better maintained than the ones in Pennsylvania, where the pothole should be designated the state seal.

True, some of the roads in N.J., especially the ones leading to Shore destinations, are congested, but I noticed it was mostly Pennsylvania drivers clogging up the Garden State's highways.

I liked the law in N.J. that requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. What a novel concept. In Pennsylvania, motorists tend to speed up when they see somebody attempting to cross the street. Pennsylvania drivers also seem to be under the wrong impression that stopping at red lights has become optional.

I was curious to see if there would be any complaints about the recent increase in the New Jersey state sales tax. I can report to you that not a single person minded the 7 percent sales tax recently enacted in New Jersey.

The 1-cent increase was negotiated by Democratic N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine and the state Legislature as a way to make up a budget shortfall and to provide property tax relief.

I know this is going to be hard to believe, but New Jersey property owners pay more in taxes than their counterparts in Pennsylvania, although N.J. residents make more money than workers in Pennsylvania, so maybe it's a wash.

While Ed Rendell has failed in four years to provide the property tax cuts he promised, Corzine found a way to do it in less than six months in office.

Several newspapers I picked up in N.J. reported that the state Legislature is already meeting to discuss ways to provide additional tax relief to property owners.

In contract, the Pennsylvania legislature is on its annual two-month summer vacation, having failed to come up with meaningful property tax reform for the 30th consecutive year.

Before you get the idea that I like Jon Corzine, I need to remind you that Corzine, like Rendell, lied to voters.

Corzine promised to cut taxes if he was elected governor, but he raised the sales tax in his first year. Turn back the clock and you had a similar scenario in Pennsylvania, where Rendell promised in 2002 to lower property taxes for every Pennsylvania taxpayer. It's 2006 and I'm still waiting for my property taxes to go down. Those are the very same property taxes that rose 22 percent while Rendell has been in the governor's mansion.

In 2003, Rendell pushed for a $1 billion increase in the Pennsylvania income tax. In 2004, Rendell pushed through casino gambling for Pennsylvania, which is a sneaky form of taxation. In 2005, Rendell pushed through the $52 EMS tax, which forces workers to pay $1 a week for the privilege of holding a job in Pennsylvania.

I couldn't help but laugh at Rendell's latest television ads that tout how he balanced the budget for four years in a row and cut taxes.

How dumb does Rendell think Pennsylvania voters are? The state constitution mandates a balanced budget. It has nothing to do with Rendell, who has borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to finance his pet projects on top of the massive tax hikes he fought for. Long after Rendell leaves office, Pennsylvania taxpayers will be paying for his spending binges.

As for cutting taxes, Rendell is blowing smoke. He's borrowing money from the state lottery to send rebate checks to low-income senior citizens. The other 80 percent of taxpayers get nothing. You call that tax relief? And the only tax breaks for businesses came at the insistence of Republican legislators. Rendell reluctantly agreed to the business tax cuts in return for Republican votes to pass his $26 billion budget.

I guess the moral of the story is that you can travel 150 miles from home, but you still can't get away from self-serving politicians.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

“Let's Say Thanks”


In an email that arrived the other day, I received information that the Xerox Corporation has a website that will allow you to pick out a post card, then choose a message and give your name and hometown. Xerox will then print out the post card and send it to the troops overseas.

According to their website, they have already sent two million cards!

We wholeheartedly urge you to go to Xerox’s
Let’s Say Thanks website and send a couple of cards. The message options vary and you can even send your own message using the ‘other’ option.

There is no selling besides an unobtrusive Xerox logo, and there is no real exposure of personal data except your name and hometown.

Folks, this is the real deal, a genuine nice thing for the company to do, and a nice thing for you to do. Everybody wins, you, Xerox, and most of all, our troops overseas.

Please give it a shot today, and tomorrow, and the day after that…


GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 14, 2006

191: “What’s wrong with this picture?”


I’m glad you asked.

Daily the headlines and editorials march forward in ever increasing numbers: “Gambling’s Tangled Web in Pittsburgh”, “PGCB Still Withholding Info from Public”, “More Legislators Calling for Changes in Slots Law”, “Trump Faces Angry Phila. Group Over Casino Plan”.

In Pittsburgh, a city that only supports winners, as the fans traditionally stay home when the Pirates and Penguins are not leading their leagues, the politicians and casino investors are tying a new arena to the licensure of a slots casino. It is the only way, they say, to keep the Penguins, a franchise that has been rescued before, in Pittsburgh.

In the Pocono Mountains, an “entrepreneur” who has been convicted of attempting to defraud the United States government of $525,000, for which he received a suspended sentence, is vying for one of the two freestanding slots casinos in the state. Louis DeNaples is also allegedly linked to a mob figure who is the head of the Buffalino Family in Northeast Pennsylvania. Associates of this “entrepreneur” have been named to the Gambling Control Board.

In Gettysburg, a shady former corporate executive (David LeVan) is competing against the Pocono project, and other applicants in the Allentown-Bethlehem area, in spite of worldwide condemnation, and the wishes of his close friend Governor Rendell, and just about everybody else in the world.

The two free standing casinos are supposed to enhance tourism in Pennsylvania. Now, the last time I checked, Gettysburg already attracts a million visitors a year to the area. Allentown-Bethlehem are not your typical tourist destinations, though they do indeed draw some tourism to the Pennsylvania Dutch area west of Allentown, and there is a large amusement park in the area. The Poconos lost their luster decades ago back when they were a haven for honeymooners, skiers and summer visitors. The Poconos need tourists.

In Philadelphia, there will be three free standing casinos, authorized by legislation, and “The Donald”, who enticed a substantial list of popular Philly sports personalities to become investors, is seeking to build a casino in an area struck by the closing of the large employer there, the Budd Company, which made rail cars, and facing the probable loss of the Philly-based Tasty Baking Corporation as it seeks to relocate its bakery operations and its headquarters.

In all of these areas except the Poconos, community resistance to the imposition of casinos in their neighborhoods has risen to the level of a statewide umbrella organization, with friends in the legislature, and with the backing of some of the more powerful newspaper editorial boards in the state.

In the legislature, the House passed an amendment to a gambling omnibus bill by a vote of 199-0 that would prohibit a casino in Adams County. There is a bill pending in the House that would repeal the enabling legislation.

The Gambling Control Board, which has been in operation nearly two years, has run out of money, sparking outrage at the Governor and Senator Vince Fumo when they arranged to take money from several state departments in violation of the State Constitution, and shift it to the Gambling Control Board. It is unconstitutional to supply money without an appropriation, meaning the General Assembly must vote for all funding.

The Board, the chairman (Tad Decker) of which claims is "...neither a board nor a commission”, and therefore has no obligation under the state’s Sunshine Law, has operated in secret, giving preferential treatment to applicants and supporters, while giving short shrift and outright hostility to opponents.

Several employees of the gambling Control Board have been arrested for such crimes as brawling in public, drunk and disorderly, misusing their official position, and even murder. [The board insisted on subcontracting out background checks that the legislation detailed must be done by the Pennsylvania State Police.] The newly hired Executive Director (Anna Neeb) of the Gambling Control Board, who doubled her salary when she was hired away from the same job in Louisiana, barely escaped charges that she turned in false time sheets and was thus fraudulently overpaid by Louisiana.

And the worst still has not emerged from the secret and shadowy world of slots suppliers, a secondary industry created by the legislature as part of the enabling legislation specifically for insiders, lobbyists, personal and political friends and relatives. This industry which just began issuing licenses is already so corrupt and filled with graft that several license applicants, including one group that was actually awarded a license, chose to void its application and another group lost its main investors, both groups doing so because of the graft and corruption already present!

In the State Senate, Democrats and Republicans have been playing a political game of mumblety-peg over an amendment package reforming the Gambling Act [Act 71 of 2004]. The game became visible during last minute budget negotiations when Republicans held up the budget so one of their members could publicly query Senator Fumo about the transfer of funds to keep the Gambling Control Board running. [Fumo is under investigation by the Feds who are looking into his handling of money in and out of a non-profit organization he founded in his district in Philadelphia.]

All of this, however, stems from a series of unconstitutional actions committed by legislative leadership in the wee hours of an early July morning in 2004, when they conspired to pass an act, Act 71, with neither the due process or due diligence required by the Constitution, and using an unconstitutionally constructed bill. Governor Rendell signaled his complicity by signing the act immediately. The State Supreme Court under Chief Justice Ralph Cappy has so far signaled its complicity as well by refusing several attempts to overturn the Act as unconstitutional, regardless of the facts.

Now, citizens of Pennsylvania need to ask themselves a number of questions:

What’s wrong with this picture?

How could our elected official, from the State Representatives in the House, to the State Senators, to the Governor, to the justices of the State Supreme Court, conspire together to create such a conglomeration of corruption, graft, greed, nepotism, incompetence and insider conspiracies and do so by claiming it will bring tax relief to property owners in the Commonwealth? [That “relief” will be about $200 each which will primarily go to our aged population.]

What more will it take to awaken the citizens of Pennsylvania to the absolute danger that our corrupted elected officials have created, more for themselves than for their constituents?

What must the awakened citizenry do to correct this crime, and punish those responsible for it? [Hint: go back and read this again, only this time, write down the names you read.]

Now, armed with your list, go do what you know you must do to correct this. And do not waste any time, for the longer you wait, the closer we get to the issuance of free-standing licenses and once that happens, any roll-back or repeal will generate enormous lawsuits that the Commonwealth will lose, and the litigation will be costly, though not nearly as costly as the awards given to the applicants that sue.

The one name you need to know to go to in order to fix this is Representative Paul Clymer of Bucks County. He has the pending repeal bill. He also has a bill pending to order a moratorium against the issuance of any licenses of any kind by the Gambling Control Board until this can be sorted out in the legislature and in the courts.

What’s wrong with this picture? Aren’t you glad you asked?

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We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST

“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

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Rendell's gambling problem

Gov. Ed Rendell is riding high in the polls and sitting on a giant pile of cash as he prepares to seek another four-year term.

He has the state's biggest media outlets (the fawning Philadelphia newspapers and TV stations) in his back pocket. He has the power of incumbency, which allows him to travel all over Pennsylvania at taxpayers' expense for thinly disguised campaign appearances, including handing out millions of tax dollars in areas Rendell needs to buy votes.

But don't bet the farm that Rendell will coast to re-election this November. Rendell has an Achilles' heel.

Rendell promised to cut everyone's taxes when he first ran for governor in 2002. He has failed to deliver on the promise. The best he could do is a rebate plan, where he borrows money from the state lottery to send a few hundred dollars back to low-income seniors. The rest of us — 80 percent of Pennsylvania taxpayers — won't get a dime under Rendell's plan.

Another glaring blunder in Rendell's first term was the middle-of-the-night passage of a casino gambling bill pushed through the Republican legislature. Nearly every Democratic legislator voted for Rendell's gambling plan and enough Republican legislators joined in to form a gambling majority.

Two years later, we are finally beginning to realize how terrible this gambling bill truly is. And politicians are beginning to understand that the anti-gambling constituency is not going away. Many Pennsylvania voters will go to the polls this November with one thing mind: Punish Rendell and the legislators who brought gambling to Pennsylvania.

Republican state Senators, chastised by the drubbing their leadership took in the May primary, have asked the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to delay licensing slots parlors until the Legislature can go back and fix the many loopholes in the gambling law. A citizens' group called CasinoFreePa is organizing a petition drive to have the entire gambling bill repealed.

Even Lynn Swann, the GOP candidate for governor, has figured out that gambling could be his ticket to unseat Rendell. Swann recently called on Rendell to specifically list gambling reforms that the governor favors so the Legislature can act on them.

"Passing a piece of legislation for reform knowing that the governor is not going to sign it means what?" Swann told the Associated Press. "It doesn't mean anything."

So it appears that the first licenses will be awarded in September before the Legislature has an opportunity to fix the holes in the gambling law.

All the nightmare scenarios that gambling opponents warned us about are coming true. We have lobbyists and legislators owning casinos that will be regulated by the state. We have a Gaming Control Board that can't live within its means. The board has already spent all of the money the Legislature has set aside for it and has had to borrow money from other state agencies.

Insiders predict Rendell, if re-elected this November, will go back to the Legislature early in 2007 and propose expanding the slots parlors to full casinos, just like neighboring New Jersey. If the Gaming Board can't get its act together to regulate a dozen slots parlors, what makes you think it can handle full-blown casinos?

Swann also took a shot at Rendell for vetoing a bill two years ago that would have eliminated a provision allowing lawmakers to have stakes in companies licensed under the state's slot machine law. The same bill would have forced Gaming Control Board meetings to be open to the public and it would have imposed right-to-know laws on the board's business. It also would have required State Police background checks of board employees. But Rendell vetoed the bill. Given a choice of looking out for taxpayers or the gambling interests, Rendell always goes where the money is.

Pennsylvania's rush to enact gambling has opened a Pandora's Box of financial mismanagement, shady deals and cronyism. One look at Rendell's campaign contributions from the gaming industry should raise questions about what the governor's motives were in pushing so hard to bring casinos to Pennsylvania.

Outwardly, Rendell promised tax relief from casino revenues, but the numbers don't add up. Several billion dollars will have to be wagered and lost by Pennsylvania residents before one dollar is returned in property tax relief. And there's a strong possibility that no tax relief will come to fruition until after 2010 when Rendell leaves office (should he win a second term).

Eight years is a long time to wait. Rendell promised tax relief in 2002. And something else could have been done in the eight years Pennsylvania residents will probably have to wait for their luck to change.

We know who's already won. Rendell has millions of dollars in his campaign war chest from the gaming industry. Lawmakers can own as much as 1 percent of a gambling company. Political cronies sit on the Gaming Board or have been hired to work for the board. Nearly $50 million in taxpayer money has been spent so far by the board and not a single license has been issued.

We know who the losers are so far: Pennsylvania taxpayers who took Rendell's sucker bet.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

Friday, August 11, 2006

190: “Call for Boycott of LeVan Interests”


It is time to take the gloves off. In a fight where the enemy shows no compunction against lying, deception, bribery, and the purchasing of political influence, there remains one single weapon with which to fight: truth!

Since the start, David LeVan has distorted and perverted the facts behind his casino project. His group of investors have lied to the public, to the Gambling Control Commission (not that they care), and to the press.

Now, the claim appears once again of 3,000 “good-paying jobs”, and $4 million to be spent on road improvements. Crossroads is still putting out the claim that Adams County/Gettysburg needs the economic jump start.

We have demonstrated before here, using valid statistics from state and Federal sources, that Adams County has:

· One of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. In fact, it has been that way for at least the last decade or more.
· An average household income substantially higher than the national average and higher than the surrounding counties.
· Two major industries that are stable (fruit/agriculture, and tourism).

[See essays
37: “Statistics”, and 38: “Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics”, we detailed the statistics on income and employment.]

Quite logically, one can easily see that his “good-paying jobs” will mostly go unfilled. Adams County simply has no need of those jobs.

Result: No benefit to Adams County!

The $4 million on road improvements? Fiction. Adams County and Pennsylvania, and US taxpayers are funding the reconstruction of the US 30 & 15 Interchange, primarily so David LeVan can have his Straban Township empire.

Result: Deficit for Adams County!

Bringing a casino into the area is not going to raise the standard of living, or the average household income. Indeed, it will lower the average household income since those “good-paying jobs” will mostly go to menial workers and laborers who will earn less than the household average in this area. In fact, most of the jobs will be part time, and without benefits.

Result: No benefit to Adams County!

A side deal struck by LeVan with the construction union grants employment rights to that union for the construction of the casino. Very few members of that union are residents of Adams County. It is unlikely that they will all be added to a construction crew on the casino project as they are likely committed to other jobs.

Result: No benefit to Adams County!

We have demonstrated how David LeVan has publicly bribed the Borough Council of Gettysburg for their support. A bribe is a bribe is a bribe, and that is precisely what this is. David LeVan inoculated the Council with ‘gold fever” by waving a million dollar gift in front of their eyes, all in exchange for the simple expediency of supporting the casino project in the Gambling Control Board hearings. They succumbed. Now they are paying the price because he has changed the terms of the deal! [See essay
121: “Gettysburg Sold to LeVan for $1 Million”.] The Borough Council has shamed itself in public by buying a pig in a poke.

Result: A shameful blight on the honor of Gettysburg Borough!

Since returning to Gettysburg after an abbreviated career in business, where his only success was in gaining himself an inflated “golden parachute”, LeVan has done nothing but curry favor and impose intimidation by spreading his money around the community. He bought himself onto the board of the college, and had the rebuilt Majestic Theater renamed in his honor, something usually bestowed after one’s death. Not our David. The Majestic Theater is now part of the David and Jennifer LeVan Performing Arts Center. How pretentious. David loves the “good life”, and fancies himself Emperor of Adams County. He loves to put on the dog. He also loves to wrestle with pigs..., which he does regularly at Gettysburg’s biker bar, The Pike, right beside his home.

Result: Gettysburg is fast becoming an ugly place to live thanks to LeVan!

So what does an early retiree from the corporate world do with his time and money? He starts the “largest Harley Davidson dealership in the country”. Then he proceeds to organize biker events that for multiple weekends each year, and one full week each summer, turn Gettysburg into “Bikertown”! Local residents are treated to the thunder of a hundred Harleys with illegal pipes rumbling past their homes in town and out in the countryside, round the clock the entire time they are in the area. This past “Bike Week” saw the first biker-brawl at The Pike (at least the first one that made the local paper, which is also under LeVan’s thrall.)

But now he has brought a divisive issue to the community in the form of his casino project.

It is not needed economically. It is not wanted by the majority of the community. World-wide press coverage has condemned the concept of a casino in the Gettysburg area. The Governor, and his November opponent have stated publicly that it is the wrong thing to do to Gettysburg (and LeVan is a close friend and political [$$$$] supporter of Rendell!). The state House of Representatives voted 199-0 to impose a ban on a casino in Adams County. The entire legitimate history community has come out against the concept.

Most people would get the hint.

Not our David. He will never admit he was wrong. Never in a million years. He’d rather divide the community, and destroy the economic fabric of the area, sully the historic aura and ruin the historic tourism before he admits he is wrong. He will spare no lie or distortion to obtain what he wants, at whatever the cost, in dollars or in moral values, like ethics and integrity.

Obstacle? No problem, let David write a check. No obstacles exist that he can’t fund a way around or through…or over.

Watch. When the casino is built, it will be named the Gettysburg Spa and Casino. Or perhaps the Crossroads at Gettysburg. Either way, it will be marketed in ads and on billboards using the name of Gettysburg despite promises to the contrary. What will anyone be able to do about it?

David LeVan’s professions of affection for Gettysburg and things Gettysburg are fraudulent. He cares only for a few things: himself, money and power. He does NOT care what you or I think. He does NOT care what you or I want. A few dollars here and there is only to build good will, like money to the Park for the reward for the arrest of the cretins who defaced three monuments last spring. It is cheap, and although most people would have the class to not mention it, LeVan let it leak to the public. Looks modest, looks like a guy trying to help, but this was during a period where LeVan was under a lot of pressure for his actions, and he needed something to boost his image locally. David LeVan is NOT an idealist. He does not do things for no reason, nor does he do things that will not benefit him in the long run. It is the unctuous practice of buying good will.

Why is he like this? One guess would be to restore his reputation in the corporate world. His last venture ended with the demise of Conrail, and the loss of jobs for many workers, yet he retained his “golden parachute”. He is very Gordon Gekko-like. Another guess has him settling some old score, some slight from his days growing up around here. And another simply says he is nothing but a spoiled little rich brat who always demands his own way. Perhaps the truth is in there somewhere, but suffice it to say, he is anything but an unselfish, altruistic idealist.

Result: disaster for the Gettysburg area, and its people.

Thus we call for a boycott of all things LeVan, and those who support this ludicrous, destructive casino project. That is, Battlefield Harley Davidson, The LeVan Performing Arts Center, Just Jennifer, the Straban Township Supervisors (vote them out!), the Adams County Commissioners (vote them out!), the Chamber of Commerce Board (vote them out!), the Gettysburg Borough Council (vote them out!) and all those businesses who support the casino project.

Boycott LeVan!

GettysBLOG

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!”
--
THE CENTRIST

“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

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

189: DR Rates Swann Candidacy

[see # 188: DR Rates Rendell Candidacy for comparison.]
Following up on DemocracyRisingPA's first installment of their evaluations of the Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates, here is the latest from DR, and good friend Tim Potts:
***********************************************************************
Democracy Rising PA News
August 3, 2006
tim@democracyrisingpa.com
717-243-8570

SPECIAL REPORT: SWANN RESPONDS

As we did in yesterday’s Special Report on Gov. Ed Rendell, here are highlights of the responses by Lynn Swann to the survey sent to gubernatorial candidates last December. The highlights also include comments by Democracy Rising PA (DR) and by the Commonwealth Foundation (CF).

Attached is Swann’s complete response. Also, for the questions and the full response of every candidate, side-by-side, go to the Democracy Rising PA web site at
http://www.democracyrisingpa.com/bulletins/response.asp.

Overall DR Comment: We’re grateful to have Swann’s response on the record. However, his response contains numerous attacks against Gov. Rendell, the sort of criticism that is conspicuously absent from Rendell’s response. DR made a commitment to put every candidate’s full response, without comment, on our web site. We will honor that commitment. We consider it inappropriate and symptomatic of what’s wrong with electoral politics that Swann uses so much of this opportunity complaining about his opponent rather than explaining his own positive agenda.

Although he says he agrees with “the goal of giving Pennsylvania the highest standards of public integrity in America,” none of Swann’s specific proposals demonstrate that they would achieve that goal. There is no commitment to making Pennsylvania’s government the best in the nation on any standard of public integrity, value for tax dollars, transparency, or earning the confidence of citizens.

Swann’s opposition to a Constitutional convention because he fears its results shows an unfortunate lack of confidence in the judgment of the citizens he wants to serve. Like Rendell, Swann wants the chance to make government in his own image but does not want to give citizens the same opportunity, even though the citizens own the government.

Standards of Public Integrity:
“…[I]t is my commitment…that my administration will work in a way that guarantees open and transparent behavior.”

Regulating Lobbying:
“A lobbyist disclosure measure must indicate what is being spent by whom and there must be strong penalties for those who refuse to comply. Every document filed must be available for viewing on the web.”

DR Comment: By this standard, Swann’s version of a lobbying control law would still give Pennsylvania the worst law in the nation. PA currently has no law to control lobbying.

CF Comment: Openness and transparency must be more than buzz-words and will require a great deal of detail. There are 49 other states with examples from which we can choose, and we hope if Mr. Swann becomes Governor Swann that he will take the very best ideas and implement them in Pennsylvania. However, the fact that a similar kind of statement to this is missing from his answer is rather troubling.

Ending “Stealth Legislation”:
“I have proposed a 72-hour waiting period before I would sign any piece of legislation, provided that it does not deal with a state of emergency issue…. This three day waiting period will allow the people of Pennsylvania to weigh in [on] any piece of legislation…. The General Assembly has the Constitutional power to regulate itself.”

DR Comment: Citizens deserve the ability to “weigh in” on laws before they’re passed, not just after. DR believes any governor should veto any legislation whose passage does not strictly comply with the provisions of Article III of the Constitution. Members of the General Assembly have the Constitutional duty to obey the Constitution.

CF Comment: The 72-hour waiting period, after the legislation has passed both houses, is too late for the people to weigh in. The waiting period needs to be strictly applied in the legislative process, not after the process has already taken place.

Internet Access to All Laws:
“Bills and Acts should be freely accessible to all individuals on the internet or in hard copy. I believe that we should make both available in order to reach all residents…. I believe that state government has for too long made it financially impossible to copy documents from our many agencies. We must ensure that those who request the documents are charged reasonable and affordable rates.”

DR Comment: DR believes that public documents should be available free of charge to citizens in the format most useful to citizens.

CF Comment: We support Mr. Swan’s idea on accessibility, however, this openness should apply to anything and everything state government does, not just bills and Acts.

Support for a Constitutional Convention:
“I am fearful that a Constitutional Convention would present too much of an opportunity for the [sic] some of a particular cause or belief to move items that would harm others…. I am unconvinced that the delegates will all have the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth in mind.”

DR Comment: This response discounts that in order for the Constitution to be changed, the legislature must place proposed changes on the ballot and the voters must approve those changes by referendum. Convention delegates have no power to change the Constitution by themselves.

CF Comment: Fears about the end result of a Constitutional Convention are legitimate and understandable. However, if our elected officials refuse to reform state government, it is within Pennsylvanians’ constitutional rights (Article I, Section 2) to “alter, reform or abolish” their government if they deem it necessary.

Proposed Amendments to the Constitution:
Swann proposes five Constitutional amendments:
1. “an amendment which limits the amount of revenue state government can spend from one year to the next.”
2. an amendment to the Constitution’s uniformity clause to allow “eliminating our [property tax] assessment system and moving to a purchase price system” for determining property taxes.
3. an amendment to allow audits of “the funds within the control of the House and Senate.”
4. “I also support shrinking the size of the General Assembly.”
5. an amendment to allow the legislature to enact a “fair and equitable cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.”

DR Comment: These ideas are among the more than 120 ideas submitted to DR by citizens around the state as part of the agenda for a Constitutional Convention.

CF Comment: Unfortunately, only 2 of Mr. Swann’s 5 proposed amendments address the issue of more open, transparent and accountable government. We fully support his idea of auditing all of the legislature’s funds. However, his support of shrinking the size of the General Assembly will not likely result in either cost savings or real substantive changes in legislative operations (as noted in the testimony by Mr. Nathan Benefield before the Senate Majority Policy Committee). We also wish that Mr. Swann would join Governor Rendell’s call for legislative term limits and the establishment of an independent commission for the purposes of redistricting. (NOTE: We do applaud Mr. Swann’s proposed amendments that are specific policy changes, including limits on state government spending increases and efforts to curtail lawsuit abuse in Pennsylvania,)

How to Conduct a Constitutional Convention:
“I do not support a constitutional convention, but … [w]hatever process is determined to give the people of Pennsylvania the most assurance that the electors are representative of the diversity of Pennsylvania and that they are interested in all the people should be the process that is utilized.”

A Constitutional Convention Organized and Operated by Citizens:
“I would be very hesitant to endorse such a process but am unable to say with certainty until all such details would be outlined….[V]oters need also be assured that those who are making the proposed changes have been duly selected and are representative of different philosophies and have divergent views.”

Issues to Exclude from a Constitutional Convention:
“I would not want our families and businesses to pay more in taxes… Many social issues would likely be proposed and opening the door to them may put Pennsylvania in a position that is in conflict with the Federal Constitution.”


Roadmap to Reform

Court Interpretation of the Constitution:
“Three days should mean three days. I believe in allowing the people time to review each bill and amendment as it works through the process.”

DR Comment: DR agrees with this interpretation of our Constitution’s requirements governing how laws should be enacted.

Court Interpretation of “Unvouchered Expenses”:
“Unvouchered expenses should be held to be illegal and it is my hope that the Court will rule in such a manner in the case pending before them.”

DR Comment: DR agrees with this interpretation and disagrees with Supreme Court decisions that have permitted “unvouchered expenses.”

Appointment of Judges:
“Any judge nominated by me will reflect my views to a certain degree. Nevertheless, the individual will be called to exercise his or her own positions when performing the duties of a judge…. Diversity is an important aspect of the judicial branch and I would seek such when making my nomination.”

Swann agrees to appoint and consult with a Judicial Nominating Commission when appointing judges. “Nominating commissions are helpful to ensure that the individuals under consideration are not just diverse, but also possess the highest level of academic and professional expertise…. I will select nominating commission members that will search the Commonwealth for attorneys that have a solid history of exemplarily [sic] work experience as well as a variety of different life perspectives.”

DR Comment: DR agrees that the process for selecting judges should be based less on political considerations and who knows whom and more on the legal qualifications and experience of nominees. A well-balanced Judicial Nominating Commission can produce nominees of that caliber.
Tim Potts, Co-Founder
Democracy Rising PA
P.O. Box 618,
Carlisle, PA 17013
717-243-8570
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[see # 188: DR Rates Rendell Candidacy for comparison.]

Thanks, Tim, for your usual excellence in bringing the facts and pertinaant issue before the voters. It is a sterling service you perform, and the citizens of the Commonwealth owe you a debt of great gratitude for the work you do.

GettysBLOG




We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST

“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

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”
--GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote,
GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2006: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.