Tom Corbett

Votes counted and Tom Wolf (D), Ryan Costello (R) & Warren Kampf (R) win

Don’t know if it was efforts of the political parties and their volunteers, the candidates themselves, the issues or the perfect voting weather of 70-plus degrees but it appeared there was record attendance at many of the polls.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many voters come out in a non-presidential election!

Looks like the dust has begun to settle from Election Day 2014.  After one term in office, Republican Governor Tom Corbett will be replaced by challenger Democrat Tom Wolf.  The debate boiled down to what many believe was massive cuts to education by Corbett versus the speculation of increased taxes to the middle class by Wolf. In the end, preservation of Pennsylvania’s education system outweighed the fear some have of a higher tax bill.

Locally, the battle for the PA State House 157 seat between incumbent Warren Kampf (R) and his Democratic opponent Marian Moskowitz  raged right up until the polls closed at 8 PM. In the end, Kampf prevailed and will serve a third third in Harrisburg. Kampf received 11,689 votes (55.09 percent) with Moskowitz receiving 9,530 votes or 44.91 percent of the votes.

Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) won the 6th Congressional District seat vacated by retiring Jim Gerlach (R-PA), beating challenger Manan Trivedi (R).  Costello received 118.450 votes which represented 56.23 percent to Trivedi’s 92,193 votes which represented 43.77 percent of the votes.

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Look past the negative campaigning and vote tomorrow!

Republicans-vs-DemocratsElection Day 2014 is tomorrow and it cannot come soon enough.  The barrage of negative campaign ads and political mailers has come at a furious pace this year.

The constant drumbeat of blame-game messages has reached an overwhelming proportion with last-minute attempts to scare and/or persuade voters.  Instances of negative campaigning among candidates are so widespread that to single out any in particular would serve no useful purpose. This general attack-style politics has infected our local campaigns.

Rather than articulating positive platforms, too many of the campaign messages are instead warnings about the evils of the opposition. We’ve all seen the campaign lawn signs and received the daily doses of campaign mailers and phone calls, many containing aggressive, offensive messages against their opponent.  The negative campaigning polarizes people around their reaction to the negativity rather than around the important issues.  I know that we should not expect a campaign season of only polite, hands-off discourse from candidates seeking to send each other to defeat.  However, knocking the opposition, though, has become the easy, fast-lane method of campaigning – a thinly veiled scare tactic to earn credit by discrediting the other side.

Opposition research is a natural part of any political campaign, which is only compounded by people constantly giving us the “inside scoop” on an opponent. There is pressure on all sides to let voters know “the truth” about their opponent, especially if that person has already gone negative in the campaign. Call me naïve and foolish, but for every minute a candidate spends attacking his/her opponent, that’s one less minute that can be spent talking about legitimate differences on policy issues that actually affect us, the voters.

After enduring a heavy season of negative campaign advertising, the need for us to participate in Election Day has never been greater.  The politicians have not been very good at policing themselves, so it’s up to us, the voters, to do it for them.  Your vote does matter; but only if you use it.  I’d encourage everyone to do their own homework about the candidates and the issues.  Look past the negative campaigning and the party politics – make an informed decision when you vote tomorrow.

Personally, I’m looking forward to post-Election Day  … no more campaign mailers or invasive robo calls at dinner time and the removal of yard signs littering the local landscape (at least for the remainder of 2014!)

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Election Day is November 4 – Who will be the next Pennsylvania Governor, 6th District Congressman and State House 157 Representative?

The countdown is on.  Like everyone else in this country, the residents of Tredyffrin are looking for solutions. In three short weeks, on Tuesday, November 4, is midterm Election Day.

There are obvious signs throughout the township that its campaign season … political lawn signs seemingly reproduce nightly, candidate mailers arrive daily at our doors and in our mailboxes, along with invitations to political fundraisers.  For those of us in the ‘Independent’ registration category, our mailbox runneth over, as does the land of campaign ‘robocalls’.  The Republican and Democratic candidates both lay claim to the independents; with each side believing that their views on issues more representative of these voters.

On the Governor’s race, most polls have Democratic challenger Tom Wolf poised to unseat Republican incumbent Tom Corbett.  A virtual unknown at the beginning of the year, businessman Tom Wolf early on used a boy next-door charm in his commercials while underwriting most of his political campaign with his own personal wealth.  Some of Wolf’s gaining in the polls may be explained by voters’ dissatisfaction with Governor Corbett.  Wolf campaign ads state that Corbett cut state education funding by $1 billion whereas Corbett counters the argument stating he has increased funding for our public schools by $1 billion since taking office. Although Corbett and his supporters argue that he has restored school funding lost to the end of the federal stimulus money, widespread public perception is that he has cut educational spending. Corbett’s opposition to a severance tax on shale gas drillers has also hampered his reelection bid.

From a local election standpoint, I am of the opinion that the November 4 election is going to see people splitting votes at the polls.  Sure, there will always be the straight party voters, whether it is the Republicans or the Democrats.  However, for those voters that go the polls, educated on the issues and the candidates, this election may see a greater number crossing party lines to vote for the candidate that best represent their own personal views.

For Tredyffrin residents, in addition to choosing a governor, Election Day 2014 also offers us the opportunity to select a new Congressional 6th District member.  The unexpected retirement of Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) after 12 years has given way to a battleground between Democratic House candidate Manan Trivedi and Republican Ryan Costello for the 6th Congressional District seat.  An Iraq War veteran and Berks County physician, the upcoming election marks Trivedi’s third Congressional attempt. Attorney and chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners, Costello at age 37, would be the youngest member of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation should he win.

Will Corbett’s gubernatorial race be problematic for Costello, as Wolf gains in the polls? As a County Commissioner, Costello has built his own fan base – will those loyal supporters be enough to counter any anti-Corbett voting or conversely, will the get-out-to-vote efforts of Wolf’s campaign help Trivedi pull off a win? The 6th District covers a large part of Chester County, and portions of Berks, Montgomery and Lebanon counties.

The other election that local voters will decide on November 4 is the PA State House 157 race. Newcomer to the political campaign world,  first time political candidate, Great Valley resident and businesswoman, Democrat Marian Moskowitz is challenging incumbent Warren Kampf (R) in his re-election bid for a third term in Harrisburg. With the exception of Paul Drucker (D) who served as 157th State House District Representative in 2009 and 2010, a Republican has held the seat for forty some years. As the war of words wages daily in campaign literature and press releases between the Moskowitz and Kampf camps, an unfortunate and recently discovered issue has complicated the race for these two candidates.

The 157th District includes all of Tredyffrin Township, all of Schuylkill Township, part of Upper Providence and most of Phoenixville. As part of last year’s statewide redistricting, a section of the 157th District, West 1, in the Phoenixville Borough was moved to the 155th District.  However, using an old map, Chester County Voter Services incorrectly left this section in the 157th District for the May primary.  People in this section of Phoenixville Borough cast votes for Kampf and Moskowitz in the primary election when they should have been voting for candidates in the 155th District. Troubling that the West 1 mapping error was only discovered last week and the candidates then notified. Obviously, this last minute correction on the election ballot is causing voter confusion – a group of people who voted for Kampf and Moskowitz as their State Representative in the 157th District in the primary election will not have that same option on November 4.

Warren Kampf has focused much of his first two terms on public pension reform.  Kampf believes that the current state pension system is not sustainable, and that escalating pension obligations will mean rising taxes or significant cuts to service. Other initiatives he supports include privatization of the state liquor store system and property tax relief, specifically switching property tax system to a gross receipts tax.

The Democratic challenger for District 157, Marian Moskowitz has made her business background a hallmark of her campaign, pointing to Franklin Commons, a successful redevelopment project with her husband in Phoenixville, as an example.  An advocate for women and small businesses, Moskowitz is interested in using her entrepreneurial and business background in Harrisburg. Moskowitz supports transportation and infrastructure improvements – according to her campaign website, one of her “primary reasons for running was her opponent’s no vote on Act 89, which brings funding to our aging infrastructure.” Kampf received his share of criticism for his vote not to support the state’s transportation bill.  However, he maintains his support for infrastructure improvements, including the Paoli Transportation Center, and that his vote was against the high impact of the gas tax increase included in the transportation bill.

Will there be a trickle-down effect from the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race on the PA State District 157 race?  Unlike the open seat in the 6th Congressional District, the State House 157 race has Democratic challenger Marian Moskowitz up against two-term State Representative Warren Kampf (R).

As the political campaigns of Wolf vs Corbett, Costello vs Trivedi and Moskowitz vs Kampf wind down over the next three weeks, take the time to understand the important issues and know the candidates. On November 4th, your vote will matter – make it count.

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PA Voter ID Law: Can Court Battles be Far Behind?

Yesterday the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the controversial voter ID bill HB 934 with a vote count of 104 – 88.  With Governor Corbett’s signature, Pennsylvania is now home to one of the toughest voter identification laws in the nation.

As expected, legislators cast their votes largely along partisan lines.  Locally, Republican state representatives Warren Kampf (R-157) and Duane Milne (R-167) voted for the bill and Democratic state senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) voted against the bill. The law goes into effect today requiring all Pennsylvania voters to present a photo ID issued by state or federal government, a state university or a nursing home, when voting in national, state or local elections.

Rather than closing the chapter on the voter identification bill debate, the passage of this bill will undoubtedly open the floodgates to legal battles. This new voter ID requirement is going to cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than the million of dollars to implement to address a problem that essentially does not exist.  Legal challenges to the law are inevitable and those costly court battles will further tap taxpayer funds … in a year that cannot afford such expenses.

In two separate cases this week, we saw Wisconsin and Texas, involved in battles over their new state voter identification laws.  In Wisconsin, Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan put a temporary injunction onWisconsin’s voter ID law.  A trial to determine whether the injunction will become permanent is set for April 16.  The temporary injunction means that the restrict law will not be in effect for Wisconsin’s April 3rd primary and elections.  The US Department of Justice blocked the new photo-ID requirement for voters in Texas claiming that many Hispanic voters do not have the proper identification.

Proponents of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID legislation claim that the law is needed to combat voter fraud, although there was no indication of existing voter impersonation fraud in Pennsylvania, which is the only type of voter fraud this legislation would address.

No evidence of voter fraud plague found in Pennsylvania but we now have a law to prevent such an occurrence. Looks to me like Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is a “solution without a problem”.

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PA Voter ID Bill: Costly and Unnecessary … How about Unconstitutional?

Amended House Bill 934, the vote ID bill passed the state Senate yesterday and is on its way back to the House. In a state where there are major budget shortfalls that are forcing reductions in many programs, how is it possible that there is money for this new government program – Pennsylvania voter identification legislation is unnecessary and unaffordable.

There is no evidence that there is fraudulent voting in Pennsylvania that showing a photo ID would solve.  HB 934 will disenfranchise thousands of senior citizens, disabled, working poor and students.  Not only will the bill eliminate voters from exercising their Constitutional right to vote, but also it would cost Pennsylvania approximately $4.3 million to implement.

Looking for another reason that HB 934 should not pass, how about unconstitutional? According to Steve Shapiro, an attorney and Judge of Elections for Tredyffrin W-1, House Bill 934 violates the Pennsylvania Constitution.  Please read the following comment that I received from Steve:

Two things happened this week relating to this issue. First, the Senate yesterday passed an amended version of HB 934, which will now return to the House, where it almost certainly will pass. According to news reports I’ve read, Governor Corbett likely will sign the final bill into law. Second, on Tuesday, a state court Judge in Wisconsin enjoined Wisconsin’s voter identification law because, he held, it likely violated the Wisconsin Constitution (http://media.jsonline.com/documents/Voter+ID+injunction.pdf).

The Wisconsin opinion led me to look at the Pennsylvania Constitution and, sure enough, it appears that HB 934 violates Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The email below, which I sent to Representative Kampf last night, explains why:

“Warren,

I understand that HB 934, as amended by the Senate, is on its way back to the House for a vote. I am writing to express my grave concern that the proposed law would violate the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that: “Every citizen 21 [now 18] years of age, possessing the following qualifications [relating to citizenship and residency], shall be entitled to vote at all elections subject, however, to such laws requiring and regulating the registration of electors as the General Assembly may enact.”

As I understand this provision, any qualified voter (i.e., a citizen that meets the residency requirements) who has registered pursuant to the registration laws enacted by the General Assembly has a Constitutional right to vote. HB 934 would prohibit a registered voter who meets the qualifications set out in the Pennsylvania Constitution from voting if he or she does not have proper identification. As such, it would appear that the proposed law would violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, and I am concerned that, if HB 934 is enacted, my fellow poll workers and I will be required to enforce a law that infringes the Constitutional rights of our neighbors.

I urge you to look into this issue before voting on the bill.

Thanks.

Steve Shapiro
Judge of Elections, Tredyffrin W-2″

Thank you Steve for your thoughts on HB 934.  If you are concerned about the voter identification bill and wish to contact State Rep Warren Kampf, his email address is: Wkampf@pahousegop.com

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Chester Upland School District is Out of Money – Can Other School Districts be Far Behind?

 There is some chilling news for public education out of Delaware County. . .  is this a ‘sign of the times’. 

With no help from the state and no fund balance, the Chester Upland School District (CUSD) has announced they have no money to pay their teachers. CUSD has a cash crisis and this past week the district ran out of money. Unless emergency funding arrives immediately, the CUSD will not meet its payroll on January 18 – which means no paychecks for teachers.  Also, means no money for electricity or heating in the schools.  To satisfy the January 18 payroll crisis, CUSD needs $7 million immediately and approximately $20 million to finish the school year.

When Gov. Corbett cut the education budget last year, we know that the cuts hit the poorer school districts the hardest – such as CUSD.  Because CUSD relies on the state for nearly 70% of their funding, the district now finds themselves in the hole by $19 million and unable to disburse paychecks.

In an impressive show of support for the students, the CUSD teachers resolved through their union, to stay on the job as long as they can.  As altruistic as their intentions, how long can the teachers realistically work without a paycheck.  Still it shows a remarkable level of compassion from the teachers and indicates ‘who’ really cares about the students.

In mid-December, the CUSD school board and teachers union begged Corbett and PA Department of Education (PDE) for an advance 2012 emergency funding of $18.7 million — $17.5 million for basic education subsidy plus $1.2 million for special education funding. (click here  to read CUSD letter).

However, on December 24, CUSD received word from Harrisburg that their advance request was denied.  It was suggested in the response from PDE that the CUSD’s economic crisis was a result of their own making — suggesting that the school board had mismanaged the school district’s operations and finances.  As a result, regardless of their cash crisis, the letter states that no help will be coming to CUSD from the state.  (click here to read PDE’s response to CUSD).

Before the start of the 2011-12 school year, CUSD already laid off 40% of their professional staff and 50% of their unionized support staff.  Because of those actions, the teachers now have class sizes exceeding 40 students. If emergency funding does not arrive by January 18, CUSD may be forced to close schools.

As minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Andy Dinniman had harsh words on Friday for the Corbett administration’s handling of the CUSD financial crisis, claiming that PDE is set on a path to destroy public education in the Commonwealth and an orchestrated attempt to fund charter schools versus public schools.

In his press release, Dinniman indicates that Corbett’s unwillingness to help CUSD is politically motivated, suggesting, “Is it just a coincidence that the operator of the for-profit charter school serving the students of this district [CUSD] is also one of the biggest Republican contributors in the Commonwealth?’”

Dinniman goes on to say, “The callous action to not advance the basic funds to allow the education of students in Chester Upland is not school reform; it is a purposeful and harmful attempt to destroy public education. No matter what side of the education you are on, all of us need to stand up to make sure that the basic funding continues to be available for the students in this district. We must stand as one to assure that the politics of education in Pennsylvania is not done on the backs of these students and these teachers.”

Sharing the sentiments of some of the T/E school board members, Dinniman looks to PDE for the answers. However, I don’t know how realistic this is – if PDE is willing to allow the Chester Upland School District to implode why should we think that the state will help the healthier, more financially secure school districts.  The school districts, like T/E  that are sitting on hefty fund balances are not certainly not going to find themselves at the front of the line, if and when, the state decides to offer financial assistance.

Several school board members have suggested that the financial problems facing our school district, and every other district across the state, is a problem that needs fixing in Harrisburg.  I probably would not disagree that the state needs to help.  However, based on CUSD’s dire financial situation, I think that the ‘hoping for Harrisburg help’ position may prove futile and unrealistic.

It appears that Corbett and the PA Department of Education is willing to throw the financial crisis back at the feet of the local school districts and their taxpayers.

Please, before anyone jumps in and suggests that I am somehow comparing T/E School District to Chester Upland School District– I am not.  These two school districts represent opposite ends of the spectrum in probably every way . . .  from property values to student test scores.  And whereas, CUSD has no fund balance, our school district has one of the largest fund balances in the state.

BUT . . . realistically, how many school districts ‘away’ from a Chester Upland School District cash crisis is T/E? 

Due to PDE funding cuts and looming PSERS costs, all the school districts across the Commonwealth are sitting on the edge of a cliff.  Sure, T/E and other local school districts with their significant fund balances, may be at the end of the line to fall off the cliff but, . .  .  how far off is that fall?

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How a Capital City Goes from a $300 million Debt to a State Takeover!

Harrisburg’s $300 million incinerator debt has the capital in the middle of a state takeover and the twists and turns of the story read like a Nancy Drew mystery novel.

In 2003, city officials in Harrisburg borrowed $125 million to rebuild their enormous trash incinerator, which the federal government had shut down due to toxic air pollution.

The incinerator project quickly became a “money pit” as delays, cost overruns and troubles with contractors forced the city to borrow tens of millions more to complete the project. The project was eventually completed but to the tune of a staggering $300 million price tag. However, far from the moneymaker that the city officials were banking on, the lucrative contracts to burn trash in the new incinerator never materialized.

City officials were betting that by expanding the size of the incinerator, they would be able to burn enough garbage from neighboring counties to generate sufficient steam to be sold to covers costs and debt service. Unfortunately, the city officials lost that bet with many counties opted not to use the new incinerator. Even before the refit was complete, one of the general contractors went bankrupt.  Today the steam generated by the plant barely covers its daily cost of its operation.

Faced with owing bond collectors more than they could afford to pay and on the verge of bankruptcy, the incinerator served as a constant reminder of a failed infrastructure project.  Trying to buy down the incinerator debt, the city laid off 32 employees and increased taxes, to no avail.

To raise cash, Harrisburg’s mayor Linda Thompson suggested selling off the city-owned parking garages and even City Island, a park in the middle of the Susquehanna River, to a real estate developer.  Thompson had little support from the City Council and residents for those ideas.  An alternative was to have the state of Pennsylvania come in and take over the city much like a bankruptcy judge, but members of the City Council didn’t much like that option.  Instead, against Mayor Thompson’s opposition, the City Council voted 4-3 to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in October. But, was this bankruptcy maneuver legal by the city council . . . ?

Harrisburg (population 50,000) is faced with debts exceeding $300 million or about five times the city’s annual budget and became late in making a $65 million debt service payment.  The city is currently being sued by six creditors and is in imminent jeopardy of not being able to provide minimum services to its citizens.

Following the declaration of Chapter 9 by Harrisburg’s City Council, in steps the state of Pennsylvania.

In October, Corbett officially launched his Harrisburg takeover.  Corbett claimed that,  “Harrisburg’s “City Council failed to enact an adequate recovery plan to deal with the city’s distressed finances has led me to declare a fiscal emergency”.  On October 20, Corbett signed a law (Senate Bill 1151) enabling an unprecedented takeover of Harrisburg and its finances, including the ability to use the city’s money to ensure that government continues to operate services, issues paychecks to employees and make pensions and debt payment.

Next chapter of the story occurs on November 23, when a judge who ruled that Harrisburg’s City Council wasn’t authorized to file the petition throws out the bankruptcy case.  The judge questioned whether a divided Harrisburg City Council indeed had the authority to go over the mayor’s head and file for bankruptcy.  In the end, the judge decided they didn’t. None too pleased with that turn of events, some members of the City Council is framing this city battleground as Main Street vs. Wall Street.

With the dismissal of the bankruptcy case, Corbett now had the green light to move ahead with the takeover and named David Unkovic, a lawyer for the state, and the Washington, DC law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge as receivers for the city of Harrisburg.  The proposed state plan would force the city to sell parks and other assets and break union and vendor contracts. The City Council is not pleased and is digging in its heels and refusing to go along, preferring to raise income or sales taxes, which is unpopular with the voters.

Although the takeover of the capital by the state is unprecedented, it looked to be a fresh start for the city, a panacea of sorts for its residents . . . but not so fast. 

In the last 10 days, the takeover of Harrisburg has faced a new challenge when three Harrisburg residents filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to throw out the takeover bill that allowed the state takeover of the city.  The suit names Corbett and the man he nominated to be the receiver, David Unkovic.

Filed by a former mayoral candidate, a union leader and a Baptist minister, they call the takeover an unconstitutional violation of their rights and are asking for it to be stopped.  The lawsuit claims that Senate Bill 1151 takes away citizens right to due process and equal protection under the 14th amendment.

As for the takeover process, last week David Unkovic was approved as receiver by a Commonwealth Court judge and he now has 30 days to develop and implement a fiscal recovery plan for the city. Unkovic could be in for a bumpy ride from the disgruntled City Council members — remember they are working with the “it’s us against the world” mindset.

The final chapter on the state takeover of its capital remains unwritten.  What we do know, is we have a city renovation project that went awry, ending up costing far more than expected. Residents paying among the highest trash removal rates in the country, an incinerator that can’t generate enough money to pay the debt, elected city officials who cannot seem to agree on how to move forward and a lawsuit against the Governor to stop the takeover of the capital by the state.  Amazing . . .

 Here’s to wishing Harrisburg and its residents better times for 2012!      

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Should Our Teachers be Graded on Student Achievement?

There was much discussion about public education reform during Governor Tom Corbett’s campaign and this week the Governor offered four broad proposals for reform (however, the specifics are limited).

(1) Charter school reform — Give the process of approving charter schools to a new state commission rather than to local school districts;

(2) Expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program — The program offers businesses tax credits for providing funding for scholarships or other educational improvement organizations;

(3) Voucher program — Create ‘opportunity scholarships’ that would allow low-income students in poor-performing schools to attend a different school;

(4) Grading teachers — Review and beef-up the teacher evaluation system in Pennsylvania’s schools.

As Tredyffrin Easttown School District candidates prepare for the League of Women Voters debate on Tuesday (7-9 PM at the Tredyffrin Township building), it was Corbett’s fourth initiative on public education reform that caught my attention. I wonder what school board candidates think about Corbett’s proposed teacher grading system.  And how, if any, would a grading system challenge the TESD teacher contract negotiations of 2012?

My understanding is that Corbett is proposing a grading system for teachers much like the way students are graded.  Currently teachers are graded ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’ and 99.4 percent of teachers in public school in Pennsylvania receive an ‘A’ . . . satisfactory rating.  However, counter to the teacher’s ratings, some school systems in the state have barely 50 percent of their students performing at grade level.  The new proposed multiple-point grading system for teachers would include “distinguished”, “proficient,” “needs improvement” or “failing.”

We know that most local school teachers are good, but are there not any bad ones?  Is it accurate that less than 1 percent of teachers in Pennsylvania are unsatisfactory?  Especially in light of the number of failing students and Pennsylvania’s ever-increasing high school drop out rate.  Is there any correlation between the quality of teaching (performance of teachers) and the performance levels of students?  Corbett’s is suggesting a reform of the teacher evaluation system that combines classroom observations and student performances . . . linking student achievement to teacher performance.

Is it possible that a single, statewide pay-for-performance model will work in each of the state’s 500 school districts?  Should the grading of teachers take into account a teachers’ longevity?

I believe that the most important school-based factor in children’s success is good-quality teachers.  Isn’t there a real possibility if we tie the merit pay of teachers performance to student achievement, this will discourage teachers from taking on the needier students and push the educators to ‘teach to the test’?

Most of us would probably agree that students with experienced, highly skilled teachers tend to do better academically. And that poorer schools have a more difficult time in attracting and keeping those teachers.  The real challenge is what is the solution?

Taking that logic a step further . . . if vouchers and charter schools remove the highest-performing students from the poor school districts, isn’t there a real risk that the failing school districts will not be fixed by Corbett’s proposed public education reform?

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Will former State Rep Paul Drucker challenge State Rep Warren Kampf for the 157th District in 2012?

Is former State Rep Paul Drucker considering a 2012 run against State Rep Warren Kampf?  You be the judge.

In my post, ‘Tea Party Agenda by State Rep. Warren Kampf, so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker’ dated August 27th, I included Paul Ducker’s recent ‘As I See It’ editorial from the Main Line Media News. 

Drucker claimed that Kampf was following the tea party agenda and gave examples of the education cuts in the state budget, the lack of taxing Marcellus Shale gas drilling and decreased state funding for social services.  In reading the editorial, it was obvious that Drucker did not agree with some of Kampf’s choices since taking office in January.  Although Drucker may not agree with Kampf’s governing approach, the article left me wondering what would he do differently?  I also found the timing of the op-ed of interest; questioning why Drucker decided to write it ‘now’. 

I came up with 6 questions for our former state representative and asked for a response by Wednesday, August 31.  As I wrote on August 27, if Drucker responded to the questions, I would offer his answers on Community Matters.  Below are my questions and Drucker’s answers.  I offer Kampf the opportunity to respond to Drucker’s comments.

1.    Why write the As I See It article ‘now’?

Representative Kampf has written a series of factually incorrect and misleading e-mails, which he has sent to residents of the 157 District, as well as opinion pieces for the newspaper.  These communications are nothing more than his parroting the tea party line on important issues facing the Commonwealth.  I felt it was important to correct errors and give context to the Republican majority’s priorities.

2.  What do you think are the most challenging issues currently facing the residents of the 157 District?

There are many challenging issues that negatively affect Pennsylvania residents, but I will restrict my answer to the most challenging issue locally, and the most challenging issue statewide.

You don’t have to be a savant to realize the most challenging issue facing the 157th.  This is obvious to anyone who drives through the commercial areas in the District or walks down Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.  Empty storefronts abound. The focus needs to be on jobs, jobs, and jobs by supporting and encouraging business development.  For example, the long awaited development of the Paoli Intermodal Train Station is a potential economic engine that will help turn us around and lead to an economic revival.  It will provide short-term jobs.  It will provide long-term jobs.  It will create new residential, and commercial space.  It will bring in new retail space, restaurants, apartments and housing.  It will create additional tax ratables on what is now worthless property.  It will create a TOWN CENTER.   In Phoenixville, the development of the old steel site is also critical to the economic health of the district.

The most challenging issue facing the Commonwealth is equally obvious.  We have a serious budget crisis.  But it is not a crisis caused solely by expenditures and can’t be cured by making draconian cuts to education and the social services.  The revenue side of the budget needs to be addressed realistically.  This means analyzing and utilizing potential sources of revenue.  Last year, the House passed a tax on Marcellus shale that was modeled after the West Virginia Marcellus tax. (I voted in favor of the bill)  The Senate refused to approve the measure and it died.  This year there is similar bill on the House floor that would produce $420 million in revenue in 2012.  This would go a long way to supporting education and needed social programs.  But at this point there is no Republican support, so the bill cannot even get out of committee.                   

3.   If you had been re-elected as state representative, what would you be doing differently than State Rep Warren Kampf to address these issues?

To support economic revitalization and development in the 157th, I would pitch my tent in the office of Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph.  I would make his office my satellite office. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would make Trans. Secy Schoch and House Transportation Chairman Geist my nbff. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would go to meetings. I would create meetings.  I would convince everybody and anybody of the reality, vitality and economic importance of the Train Station and the steel site development, not only to the 157th, but also to the entire Delaware Valley and to the Commonwealth.

To address the revenue situation, I would immediately sign on as a cosponsor to H.B. 33.  This is the Marcellus bill.  I would go to State Representative Benninghoff, Chairman of the House Finance Committee and try to convince him to release the bill to the floor. (In fact, a discharge motion to force this bill to floor was defeated.  Representative Kampf voted in lock step with his tea party cohorts to defeat the bill) I would talk to House Majority Leadership and attempt to get them to support the bill.  I would let it be known that this bill is vital to closing our budget gap, and vital to protecting the environment of the communities where the drilling is taking place and the water shed of the entire Commonwealth.                     

4.   Where do you think State Rep Kampf should focus his attention?   

See above.                  

5.    Do you think that the possible 157 District re-districting could play a role in the State Representative race of 2012? If so, why?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is going to get redistricted.  Among other things, Chester County gained 65,000 people since the last redistricting and will get an additional seat in the State House of Representatives.  Since the Republicans control the Senate, the House and the Governor, they control this process.

The only constitutional requirement is one of mathematics, one person, one vote.  As long as each district is within the standard deviation of the mean the district passes muster.  The district doesn’t even have to be contiguous.  (I introduced a bill, that didn’t pass, that required many other factors to be taken into consideration when redistricting.  This would have made the decision much more representative and made gerrymandering much more difficult)

There is no question that the Republicans will gerrymander any district they can if it will strengthen that district from a Republican perspective and if they can do so without weakening another corresponding Republican district.  Whether on not that will impact the 157th remains to be seen.

6.  Are you considering a 2012 run against State Rep Kampf?

This question is premature.  I can say that I have remained involved in the affairs of the 157th and intend to continue to do so.  I will support the citizens of this district any way that I can.

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Is Tolling 422 the ‘Only’ Solution to Traffic Nightmare?

Tolling of 422 continues to be a topic of discussion.  A few days ago, Barry Seymour,Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) wrote an editorial with claims that tolling is the best option to improve 422 traffic problems. This article reconfirms Seymour’s presentation last month to Gov. Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission.

Here’s some interesting statistics from Seymour’s editorial:

About 65,000 commuters drive each day between Royersford and Collegeville; and within the next 25 years, that number will increase by 44 percent to over 93,000 commuters. Today, the average 422 commuter spends the equivalent of two weeks vacation stuck in traffic; by 2035, without additional capacity, time wasted will grow to the equivalent of four weeks, and the road will be in gridlock.

Seymour claims that 422 improvements will cost $700 million in improvements over the next decade and laments that few options are available for funding.  With the Federal government dollars decreasing and PennDOT’s budget of $243 million over the next 8 years, what alternatives remain?   If you support Seymour’s theory, you quickly conclude that tolling 422 is about the only way that to improve the daily commuter nightmare.

Because the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission will be finalizing and delivering its recommended plan to Corbett by Aug. 1, Seymour likewise is continuing to put forth his case.  Expected in the plan will be a recommendation for a local taxation authority dedicated to specific roads in a given region. The idea of a local multi-county taxation authority is to direct funding for local improvements. 

According to Seymour, “ . . . By 2035, a commuter who travels the full distance on the expressway would save more than 40 minutes daily or about $7,000 per year in travel time value.”  With the clock counting down to the deadline for the governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, Seymour needs to make sure he has a voice in Harrisburg.

To read Seymour’s editorial, click here.

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