Integrity, Honesty, Decency . . . Have we lost those values in politics?

When I wrote my last post for Community Matters, I had a very specific message. The Tredyffrin Republican school board candidates made a choice and in my opinion, it was the wrong choice.  They sent a campaign mailer that contained a lie — stating that the Democratic school board candidates want an EIT and that they have begun the process to implement this new tax.  The Democratic school board candidates have not taken a position in favor of an EIT and it was wrong for the Republican candidates to lie and state that they had.

Integrity, honesty, decency . . . have we lost those values in politics?  How about doing what’s right?

Through comments on Community Matters and in personal conversations, it may be possible that the Republican school board candidates did not approve or see that mailer before it went out. Do I know that factually?  No.  Is it possible?  I guess so, but I stand firm that ‘as a candidate’, it is your name, your face and ultimately your reputation on the line, so the ‘buck stops with you’.  A mailer may come from a political party but if it has your name attached to it, you are responsible for its contents. In other words, as a candidate, you ‘own it’

Two years ago, during the 2009 campaign cycle, similar misinformation about my fellow candidates and me was perpetuated and unfortunately, as a supervisor candidate I was on the receiving end.  After that election, people should know that it has taken a lot of effort (and forgiveness) to move past the damage caused by that negative campaigning.  Similarly, I have struggled to get past the personal distress caused during the Special Election by the local Democrats over what I believe was an inappropriate use of Community Matters on a candidate mailer.

Based on the firestorm of activity on Community Matters in the last couple of days, it is obvious that I do not fully understand the level of partisan politics held by some in Tredyffrin Township. But I would like to appeal to the local political party leaders, Republican Mike Broadhurst and Democrat Dariel Jamieson to look around at what is happening in this community; the partisan divide in widening. Whether or not your candidates win on November 8, is the price of victory worth it?

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  1. Has anyone read the statement that the Democratic candidates for TESB published in the Main Line Suburban Life 10/26/11 edition? How could any thinking voter read that piece and not conclude that these candidates will push forward with an EIT? The candidates list the school district’s financial shortfalls, note that property tax receipts are down, and list the further cuts in school spending that we are facing. Then they point to the plight of retirees and the unemployed, i.e. those who have no EARNED INCOME and say we need to do things DIFFERENTLY. What I don’t understand is why the Democratic candidates are upset that the Republicans have pointed out that the Dems will push an EIT. Read the candidates’ own statement, it is right there. The ones who are being dishonest are the candidates who claim, directly or indirectly, that they will not push the EIT by putting it on the ballot. Listen, Democrat candidates, you should run on your true beliefs, not on the platform of misleading voters about what you will actually do in office. The EIT is the biggest issue facing the voters in this election, and voters deserve to hear what you will actually do. The Republicans have told us what they will do. I don’t care what you are “personally opposed to” I care what you will do.

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  2. Every election seems to be getting nastier… is this the new trend ? Candidates on both sides are willing to give their time & energy to help run our community. I have to wonder who will even bother to run for public office if this keeps up.

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  3. This isn’t limited to local politics. It’s the going negative way to win. And it’s absolutely the fault of the voters. People don’t pay attention. They are lemmings in a voting booth OR they are too passionate. This is dispassion time — use your heads.
    Social Media has ushered in a decided lack of social skills. And you are right — just read the residual hurt in Pattye’s post about how she felt she was treated. But again — these jobs call for thick skin and tough “think on your feet” skills. Who gets through this process is worthy of the “reward” (i.e. — the win?)

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  4. I was laughing to myself after reading your response, it is apparent that you missed Patty’s point all together. One side is no better then the other and your response makes that very clear which side you think is at fault. Having lived in this area all my life, in a place that is filled with Republicans and that has changed over the last couple of years. Please stop trying to tell people that it is only Democrats that like to raise taxes. What a crock!!!!!!! In a place that has been ruled by one party for so long, how can you even think that? Come on lets be a little honest!!! They all like to tax. The trick is to find a candidate that will not raise your taxes!!!!

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  5. Be fair version — the letter to the editor is the most intentionally confusing letter from candidates I have ever read…..we are all going to die, unless something changes…and the only thing that can change is we must find another way to fund the schools…..another way….they are demanding an EIT from the voters without putting their fingers on it. It’s cowardly.

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  6. Totally agree with you on finding a better way to fund schools. They will do anything they can to say in power, instead of coming up with solutions, and that is from Harrisburg all the way down.

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  7. Finally got our power back for the football game and to read the latest CM posts.

    Pattye: do you think that politics was EVER known for integrity, honesty and decency?! The issue for me is one of degree. The R mailers just seem to take values to a new low. And the lie was actually repeated with a new piece we got in yesterday’s mail. “Vote “No” to the Democrats’ Double-Tax!” Huh??

    And what are we to make of the R solution: “focus [spending] in the classroom”. Does that mean cut sports? orchestra? band? school buses? All were supported vigorously by both R and D candidates in the debate.

    So, no-one is willing to come up with specifics, and that’s clearly too much to hope for. I continue to think that the best avenue for voters is to glean what they can of attributes like character, intelligence, commitment, etc. from whatever sources they can.

    And no-one has yet been able to explain to me why it is that the Rs now will not even listen to pros and cons of alternatives to a declining tax base they have taxed to exhaustion with 40% plus increases over the last decade. What’s afoot here?

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    You are probably right about politics Ray. I too received the second Republican school board candidate mailer, presumably it was already in the printing process and not enough time to stop it. I say that only because we have been led to believe that the Rep school board candidates didn’t approve the first mailer before it was mailed. So are we to assume that they didn’t see the second mailer either? I just don’t get it — don’t the individual candidates care what their neighbors may think of them based on their association with these mailers? Or maybe it’s just me, living in my naive ‘rose-colored world’ — where character and personal values matter. I find all of this so troubling, regardless of who is doing it . . .

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    Doesn't Add Up Reply:

    It is not just you, personal values and integrity do matter – seems to be rare in Tredyffrin politics though.

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    Doesn't Add Up Reply:

    I cannot believe that the two “no-shows” at the school board debate, along with the other R’s, put their faces on the mailer claiming that the “D’s want to impose new EIT on top of the property taxes we already pay”. I guess we can now put a face on the dishonesty and stop waiting for any of them to demonstrate some integrity.

    I also received a mailer from the D supervisor candidates yesterday. It says our Tredyffrin tax base is shrinking, and has a bunch of pictures of local “for rent” signs. Should I assume that the “rent photos” were just for dramatic effect and that the D supervisor candidates understand that vacant comercial property pays the same township property tax as an occupied commercial property??

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Seriously, do you really understand about the economic quality of an area? Just because for the time being an unoccupied property generates the same amount of property taxes as an occupied property doesn’t mean it’s ok. It means there is something fundamentally wrong with the people governing the area – about what they are not doing .

    You can look at areas and what they did right, and what they did wrong, and you can basically point to a handful of leaders who really drove it . On the positive side you have West Chester, Manayunk, Conshohocken, Phoenixville is a hell of alot better than 10 years ago. And then you can look at Chesterbrook Shopping Center. Our pathetic railyard ,and the corner of Rte 30 and Valley rd that should be the most bustling part of town and yet their are empty stores that line the entire block .That’s a leadership issue. That isn’t what you say pictures for dramatic effect. Go out there and look at it yourself.

    D supervisor candidates understand that vacant comercial property pays the same township property tax as an occupied commercial property??

  8. I hear what you are saying. Some of the candidates may share your values but they just seem to go along with their parties. WHY?

    Have you seen the new yellow Dem signs. Do they really think that this response to the Rs will win them votes. I cant wait until this election is over some of these people are out of control. THe lengths people will go to win.

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  9. Wow — our power JUST came back on, and the heat is working its way back. Lucky you Ray to get it back for the game….I had a radio…

    Doesn’t Add Up is so right — the idea that our tax base is shrinking and then pictures of properties for rent sort of magnifies just how perplexing our choices are. You don’t increase the tax base unless you develop new property — and with Chesterbrook almost empty, new property is not going to fix any problems.

    If the Ds want to be honest, they should step up and tell people that our tax base is shrinking and they propose a new source of revenue….but that’s a vote killer because no one wants to hear that.

    SO Pattye — your rose colored glasses are what they are — a view of a life that doesn’t exist. Before my power went off, I was watching “Father Knows Best” and was struck by how many moral tales were told in a single 30 minute show — and realized that even parents don’t teach the moral tales we all took for granted in our lives. Bud had to do a reading at church — his mother wouldn’t let him play in a big baseball game (where few parents were in the stands) because he didn’t have his chores done. The minister was at the game and commented on Bud’s honesty…and Bud did his church piece admitting he had shirked his job but said he wanted his parents to be proud of him.

    None of us wants to see that or hear that nowadays, because there is no implied social contract in our lives — trophies for attendance, travel teams for 8 year olds with special jackets so people are sure they know WHO is the special athlete, parents of gifted kids complaining that “special ed” kids get all the services…..

    It almost doesn’t matter who gets elected, because voters will stop paying attention by January. Maybe we can learn from this cycle and actually hold people to what they claim when they run — then again, when you run on platitudes, how hard is that?

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  10. The Tax base IS shrinking. I don’t think that’s a debate. It’s a fact. You don’t get it . Empty stores , vacant shopping centers, make places less desirable to live. You build it so they come here. People get old, move on and you need people that want to move here to take their place. Doesn’t happen over night . It’s not a republican / democrat issue. But I’d rather see us not get an EIT and make up the deficits through more revenue. We have 3 options: 1) increase the tax base 2) EIT 3) Drastically cut school spending , which will drive property values down. If you have a 4th option, I’d like to hear it .

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    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Options:
    1. Use the fund balance (short term, giving a couple of years to see what happens in Harrisburg and the property markets (values and transfers, and note: this was a national bubble, not just in TE!!), and to get all possible expense reductions clearly articulated). If no external solution after two years, get voters to select from: EIT, equivalent property tax increase, or by default, prioritized expense cuts.
    2. Keep yearly ratcheting up the property tax by the maximum allowable without voter input (Index plus Exceptions), hopefully offsetting declining appraisals. Cut programs year to year. Use fund balance for any shortfalls. Hope this keeps the district solvent without having voter referendum at least until the next election.

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  11. Option 4: Student Activity Fee — 6,000 students at $1,000 a person for $6,000,000. Is the fairer alternative to ask taxpayers to pay more for services strictly available to kids in school. The charitable among us would certainly be willing to donate to FLITE or T*E Care to support it.

    And the property values in other areas have gone up because the size of the houses built are on empty land….so the “increase” in homes is total value, not individual value.

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  12. Township Reader says, “Student Activity Fee — 6,000 students at $1,000 a person for $6,000,000.”
    .
    Raising activity fees is a viable solution, but the math above is way off. The school board discussed activity fees last year and estimated a revenue increase of $70,000. Here are the problems with the $6M number.
    .
    1. Extracurricular activities are concentrated at the high school level. There are some EC’s at the middle school level and virtually none at the elementary level. Collecting money from the thousands of students who don’t participate in EC’s would be illegal.
    2. The actual cost of running the average EC is far below $1,000. Only the major sports of football, baseball and basketball are anywhere close to $1,000 per year. Volleyball, track, drama, band, clubs, etc. are far below $1,000. Thus, even if EC’s were 100% self funding, the resulting revenue would be far below $1,000 per activity per year.
    3. A move from the current minimal self funding to 100% self funding in one step is politically difficult. A gradual shift to 15% or 20% self funding would be easier.

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  13. Not suggesting the paltry SAC the board discussed. Read information around the country. It’s not “illegal” to charge a fee. It’s how colleges are able to offset tuition increases….student activity fees across the board. Activity fees are associated with going to school — not playing football.
    So that $6M is a number I am serious about. It’s not only not way off, it’s viable.

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