Friday, January 05, 2007

Tony Phyrillas: All I know about Dennis O'Brien

Here's everything I know about Dennis M. O'Brien, the newly-elected Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

O'Brien supported the July 2005 legislative payjacking. Strike 1.

O'Brien is from Philadelphia. Strike 2. (Philadelphia politicians care only about Philadelphia. Their only goal is to bring more of our tax dollars back to Philadelphia, where the money will be squandered by other corrupt or incompetent politicians. See Ed Rendell for numerous examples of this).

O'Brien says he has "chemistry" with Gov. Ed Rendell. Strike 3. (Anybody eager to work with Ed ‘Tax Hike’ Rendell scares me.)

O'Brien was nominated by Democratic Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, one of the architects of the payjacking and a man who has opposed Legislative reform for 30 years. Strike 4.

O'Brien, a Republican, was voted into office by 99 House Democrats. Strike 5. (Something doesn't smell right when Democrats want a Republican to lead the House.)

While nobody is happier than I am to see Republican John Perzel finally ousted as Speaker, his replacement has a long way to go to win the public's trust and restore some sense of integrity to the Legislature.

I'm not convinced the members of the Pennsylvania Legislature who gave us the July 2005 payjacking and have resisted reforms for decades woke up on Jan. 2 and finally "got it" after paying lip service to constituents for the past 18 months.

I tend to side with this assessment from the editorial pages of The (Delaware County) Daily Times about the sudden burst of bipartisanship in the House and promises of reform: "Only a 'cockeyed optimist' would believe that was what happened in the state House. What happened in Harrisburg was Pennsylvania politics as usual. One back-room deal after another, reminiscent of the closed-door meetings that lead to the middle-of-the-night pay raise that so angered the electorate."

Let's wait until the smoke clears before we decide if the Legislature got the message or we have to continue to sweep out career politicians.

Let's see some results before we decide of Dennis O'Brien is a true reformer or just Perzel-light. Is he the man who can usher in a new era of good government or is he a puppet of status quo politicians like Ed Rendell and Bill DeWeese?

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