Warren Kampf

Incumbent State Rep Warren Kampf (R) has Democrat challenger(s) for PA 157 race!

Democrat Jed Grobstein of Paoli released the following press release today officially throwing his hat in the ring in the PA State House 157 race. Conestoga High School grad and former high school teacher in South Bronx, NY, Grobstein believes that he can make a difference in Harrisburg.  According to the press release, Grobstein will focus his campaign on Gov. Corbett’s educational budget cuts and State Rep Warren Kampf’s voting record on the transportation bill.

Things may get interesting for the PA State House 157 race because Grobstein may not be the only Democrat looking to unseat the Republican incumbent. I have also been told by several people in the last couple of days that Democrat Marian Moskowitz, a real estate attorney from Malvern has also decided to enter the 157 race.  This could be an interesting local campaign season!

PRESS RELEASE: Teacher Announces Campaign for PA 157th with $51,000 on Hand, Takes Kampf to Task for $1 billion in Cuts to Education

Jed Grobstein today announced his bid for the Democratic nomination to the State House in the Pennsylvania 157th, saying “Warren Kampf has taken our residents for granted for far too long. Pennsylvania needs smart, proactive leadership in Harrisburg, and not just a gaggle of Corbett yes-men. As a teacher in the South Bronx, I learned how to listen, how to be a problem-solver, and how to bring people together, and I think we need more of that in Harrisburg.”

Grobstein’s campaign, Jed for PA House, filed its 2013 annual report showing that it had raised more than $40,000 in just eight weeks. The campaign also reported having more than $51,000 on hand.

Grobstein noted that Warren Kampf “has worked with Gov. Corbett to cut $1 billion from education, and to make it more difficult for mothers to receive the health care they need. He unconditionally refused to support a bipartisan transportation bill and attempted to deny funding to critical transportation infrastructure, bridges, highways and our own Paoli Transportation Center.”

Grobstein served as a math teacher and a Democratic organizer, and he is proud to be running for office less than a mile from his childhood home. While teaching math in the South Bronx, Grobstein worked as the chairman of his department and founded the advocacy organization ‘Keep Our Schools Alive’ to encourage parents, students and teachers to participate in their school’s governance.

A graduate of Conestoga High School in Berwyn and Pomona College in Los Angeles, Grobstein received his Masters in Education from City College in New York. Teaching in the South Bronx, Grobstein served as chair of his Math Department and worked to develop new curriculum for the classroom while integrating assessment and instruction.

When New York City began closing high schools in 2009, Grobstein organized and founded ‘Keep Our Schools Alive’ (KOSA) to encourage stakeholders, parents, students and teachers, to participate in the city’s decision-making process. KOSA argued that the school closings were arbitrary and that the city had failed to engage essential stakeholders. The State Supreme Court agreed, and in 2010 it reversed the city’s decision, saying that the Department of Education had failed to gather sufficient community input.

Grobstein returned to Pennsylvania at the end of 2010 to pursue a career in the United States Marine Corps. When a shoulder injury prevented him from enlisting, Jed accepted a staff position with Organizing for America on President Obama’s re-election campaign. Following that election Jed served as campaign manager for Delaware County’s Democratic slate and produced historic gains in a county long known for its Republican dominance.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

State Rep Warren Kampf takes on TTDEMS Chair Dariel Jamieson for lying about him … again!

Below is an excerpt from an op-ed written by State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157).  In the article, Kampf is calling for an end to uncivil discourse.  He uses a couple of examples in his editorial of uncivil speech, including Dariel Jamieson’s recent letters to the editors.  It is not Jamieson’s right to voice her opinion concerning Kampf’s vote on the transportation bill that is the issue but rather her lying about a political pledge she states that Kampf took.  As I said in my last post, Jamieson compounded the difficult situation by writing a second letter to the editor and not taking responsibility for her incorrect accusations contained in her first letter. Civil discourse means to engage in conversation intended to enhance understanding – personal attacks and lies are wrong and diminish the value of the argument.

In his latest op-ed, Kampf does not say Jamieson’s actions were politically motivated.  However, when you write an editorial attacking a Republican elected official and sign the letter as chair of the local Democratic Committee (as Jamieson did), it is not a stretch to come to that conclusion.  For those keeping score – Dariel Jamieson has now written two editorials attacking Warren Kampf in the last couple of weeks and Kampf’s op-ed marks his second response back to her.  Here’s hoping that Jamieson does not feel compelled to write a third letter to the editor on the same topic!

Beyond the uncivil discourse created by Jamieson’s letters, I remain troubled that her actions as the political party chair are putting Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed, the newly elected Democratic Tredyffrin Township supervisors, in an awkward position less than a month before they take office.  Wysocki and Freed will join five Republican supervisors on the Board and this ‘war of words’ from Jamieson going on in the background cannot be helpful to them.  I will not believe that Jamieson sought counsel with either Wysocki or Freed before engaging in this discourse against Kampf – if she had, it is extremely doubtful that they would have approved either of these letters.

When you accept the role of president or chair of an organization, and act publically in that capacity, you need to ensure that your voice is representative of those that you are elected to serve – are Jamieson’s letters to the editor representative of TTDEMS members opinions?  I hope not.

In closing, I echo Kampf’s words,” … every citizen and every elected official – would be better served saying what we must in a way that achieves civil discourse …”   Below is the excerpt from Kampf’s Op-Ed, to read the entire article, click here.

It’s Time to End Uncivil Discourse

As State Representative, I am accustomed to hearing from constituents as they present their views and positions on issues being addressed in Harrisburg and here at home.  Some agree with me.  Some do not.  But, mostly, all make their points in a manner that is respectful and fair.   I work hard to do the same in answering their concerns.  It’s called civil discourse, and it is one of the foundations of our representative democracy.

Unfortunately over the past few months – as we have seen arguments over government shutdowns in Washington, D.C., differences surrounding the recently enacted Transportation Funding package in Harrisburg, and now the passionate feelings over eminent domain issues in Phoenixville – it has become clear that too many have abandoned civil discourse in favor of uncivil speech and actions.

This speech and these actions do us no good.  It forces people, who are otherwise normally reasonable, to abandon the idea of achieving pragmatic progress.  It forces gridlock.  It stops us from addressing truly important issues.

During the debate over the Transportation Funding package, I was accused in a Letter to the Editor of choosing my position based on a political pledge to a Washington, DC special interest group.  The problem?  I had never taken any such pledge (something that was easily verifiable with a simple internet search) and I had made it known publicly that my position came from surveying the people I represent.  My attacker, however, had no problem simply submitting a lie to the newspaper.  That’s uncivil discourse.

I give my attacker respect for her position on the issue and her passion over it.  I believe, however, her point could have been made in a way that was more respectful to both the public and me.  Had she made her point this way, I believe it may also have been more effective for those she wished to persuade. . . .

Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that citizens abandon making their voice heard, be it in favor or opposition to an issue.  As the saying goes, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I am just suggesting that all of us – every citizen and every elected official – would be better served saying what we must in a way that achieves civil discourse again.   In this way, we can find our way to truly addressing issues rather than just fighting about them.  That is a simple goal we should all strive to achieve if we truly care about making our community stronger.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Rather than partisan mudslinging, can we come together and move the Paoli Transit Center project and the economic redevelopment of Paoli forward?

The passage of the $2.4 billion transportation bill which will provide new funding for the state’s roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems over the next five years, and the subsequent $14.5 million award earmarked for the Paoli Transit Center, brought excitement and renewed hope for Paoli. In discussion for 30 years, the train station project has languished with little movement and the new transportation funding, including multi-million dollar award for Paoli Transit Center, could be the needed catalyst. The economic redevelopment of Lancaster Avenue through Paoli hinges on building the Paoli Transit Center – its time is now. Paoli deserves a new beginning.

The release of Chester County Planning Commission’s 2013 Transportation Priority Projects report occurred prior to the House vote on the transportation bill although I did not see it until afterwards.  The report lists Paoli Transit Center as a transportation priority and includes a current photo of Paoli train station serves as the report’s cover. There is no question that the recent release of the Chester County report was a significant factor in the $14.5 million funding award for Paoli.

In addition to the county’s Planning Commission prioritizing Paoli Transit Center, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) continues to strongly support the project.  DVRPC adopts the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), the regionally agreed upon list of priority transportation projects (as required by federal law) and its recommendations. TIP’s 2013-2016 project list includes the Paoli Transit Center as a priority.

As residents in this community, we are aware of the importance of the municipal government and school district receiving Moody’s Aaa bond rating. Moody’s ratings scale range from Aaa (highly unlikely to default) to D (in default).  To receive the highest rating, requires very strong financial operations, ample reserves and strong management policies. In fact, candidates seeking office often promote maintaining our Aaa bond rating on political campaign literature.  So … it was interesting to read that we can add Moody’s Investors Service (www.moodys.com) to the list of those pleased with Pennsylvania’s transportation funding bill, calling it “a credit positive for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”.  Moody’s also gave the bill a credit positive because it phases out the annual funding burden that the prior transportation bill (Act 44) created for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

There is strong support for the Paoli Transit Center including Tredyffrin Township (Paoli on the Move), Chester County Planning Commission, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Transportation Improvement Program, SEPTA, Paoli Business and Professional Association, local business community, elected officials and many residents.

However, initial excitement about the transportation bill and multi-million award for the Paoli Transit Center, has been marred by some finger-pointing and local political wrangling.  In advance of the final House vote on the transportation bill, a letter to the editor by Darien Jamieson, chair of the Tredyffrin Democrats, appeared in the Main Line Suburban.  In her letter, Jamieson criticized State Representative Warren Kampf (R-157) for his lack of support for the proposed transportation bill.  Unfortunately, Jamieson took her criticism of Kampf too far, making an inaccurate and unsubstantiated claim.  Jamieson’s letter ‘Warren Kampf – Too Extreme for Tredyffrin’ stated that Kampf took the Grover Norquist “No Tax” pledge. Her statement was not substantiated and the claim was incorrect.

In his response to Jamieson (which also appeared in the Suburban), Kampf refuted her claims, stating, “I have never taken a “no tax increase” pledge with any group, including any in Washington, D.C., as Ms. Jamieson claims. I would challenge her to offer proof for this claim or admit it is 100% a fabrication”.   A couple of days later, the transportation bill passed (without Rep. Kampf’s vote) and the subsequent announcement made about the $14.5 million award for the Paoli Transit Center.

This week Main Line Suburban contains another letter to the editor written by Jamieson. Writing as the chair of the Tredyffrin Township Demoratic Committee, I assumed that the purpose of Jamieson’s latest letter was to offer a public apology to Rep. Kampf for her previous unsupported accusations.  But no, there was no apology or retraction from Jamieson to Kampf in her letter, ‘Warren Kampf: Watch what he does – not what he says’ .

As a supporter of the Paoli Transit Center and the redevelopment of Paoli, I too questioned Kampf’s lack of support for the transportation bill and did not agree with his position.  However, it was wrong of Jamieson to ‘make facts up’ to strengthen her case against Kampf.  The situation made worse by the fact that Jamieson had the opportunity to apologize to Kampf  and retract her accusations and chose not to.

I’m not certain from where Jamieson is taking her cues but I would think that following the local Democrats impressive election wins last month, she would take a low profile. With two newly elected Democrats (Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed) joining Tredyffrin’s historically Republican Board of Supervisors, it would not appear helpful to have their party chair immersed in a ‘war of words’ with our local state representative.  To be successful in their new supervisor roles, requires Wysocki and Freed to leave their political party ‘hats’ at the door and prepare to work hard for all the residents – Republicans, Independents and Democrats. That same sentiment goes for the Republican supervisors.

The transportation bill passed and the community received good news for the Paoli Transit Center – rather than continuing the partisan bickering that only serves to divide, can we come together and move the train station project and the economic redevelopment of Paoli forward.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

JUST IN: Third time is the charm – House passes $2.4 billion transportation funding bill

Just in from Harrisburg – tonight a third vote was taken on the transportation funding bill and it passed 104-95!  Apparently, Gov. Corbett managed to persuade some of his fellow Republicans to switch sides!  At this time, I have no information on how our local elected officials voted except that 63 Republicans and 41 Democrats approved the bill.

Last night the transportation funding bill failed twice to get the necessary votes.  If I were a betting person, I would have bet that after last night’s two failed attempts, that was the end of the road for the proposed transportation funding for 2013 and probably 2014.  Guess third time’s the charm!

The bill will provide $2.4 billion in new funding for the state’s roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems over the next five years. This represents a 39 percent increase in current transportation spending.  The breakdown of the $2.4 billion funding package is $1.8 billion for road, bridge and tunnel improvements, $500 million for public transit systems and $144 million for rail freight, ports and airports.

It should be noted that the bill must still win final passage from the House and the Senate.  Although the Senate overwhelming approved the transportation bill in June it was without the amended House version that lifts the threshold at which public projects must pay union wages.  There’s a clause that would lower construction workers’ pay on some road and bridge projects that are below $100K.

With the approval of the transportation bill, it looks  like the Paoli Transit Center and the PA turnpike widening projects are back on the possible funding table!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

PA Transportation funding bill fails – what does this mean for the future of Paoli Transit Center and Turnpike widening project?

Unfortunately, the clock just ran out for transportation funding in Pennsylvania, at least for the near future.  Late on Monday night, the proposed $2.4 billion PA transportation funding bill was narrowly defeated on the House floor.   The House legislators voted 98 – 103 against the bill, which would have provided new funding for much needed repairs on our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems.  So close and yet so far away – what does this vote mean for the future of the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike widening projects in Tredyffrin?

Prior to the House vote on the transportation bill, a critical Op-Ed, ‘Warren Kampf – Too Extreme for Tredyffrin’ written by Tredyffrin Democratic Party Chair Dariel Jamieson appeared in Main Line Suburban.  The article focused on State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) lack of support for the transportation bill, making a claim that Kampf took a ‘no tax’ pledge and that he [Kampf] is “standing in the way of job creation and prosperity.”

Kampf immediately responded to Jamieson’s criticism with his own Op-Ed, ‘Kampf Refutes Jamieson’s no tax increase pledge’ suggesting that she [Jamieson] needed to “stick to the facts, instead of creating her own” and stating that he never took a ‘no tax’ pledge.  Kampf restated that his opposition of the transportation-funding bill was a decision based on 60,000 of his constituents not wanting an increase in their gas prices to pay for the infrastructure improvements. Kampf separates his vote against the transportation funding bill from his support of local projects, claiming that he does support the Paoli Transit Center and the turnpike widening project.

In my opinion, the immediate future of the Paoli Transit Center was tied directly to the passage of transportation funding bill.  I understand there was no guarantee that the money would have come to Paoli if the bill had passed but clearly without this state funding the future of the project now looks bleak.  This is not a ‘doom and gloom’ forecast, more of a reality check. Money begets money – state funding was required for the transit center if the project was to receive federal funding.  I had heard that if the transportation bill failed, the transit center was not going to stay on SEPTA’s funding list.  So … where exactly is the funding going to come from for the transit center?  Tomorrow night is the third (and final) Paoli Transportation Open House, 4:30 – 8 PM at the Township Building.  In light of the defeated transportation bill, it will be curious to see how SEPTA representatives field funding questions at the Open House!

I think that the future of the PA turnpike widening and associated sound walls and storm water issues is more of a grey area.  Residents whose homes are located along the PA Turnpike have been working on storm water and sound wall issues for years. These issues have affected property values, saleability etc. The PA Turnpike Commission previously stated that if the transportation-funding bill was not passed, their Capital Plan would be reduced by removing major projects. It’s unclear if the turnpike’s construction project in Tredyffrin Township will stay on the front burner or now move to the back of the stove.

Without the House vote to approve transportation funding, when (or if) will the funding for the state’s infrastructure improvements resurface?  Once the momentum is lost, it is difficult to regain – since the funding was not approved in 2013, it’s highly unlikely that anything will happen during 2014 (election year).

In his response to Jamieson in Main Linen Suburban, Kampf reiterated his support of the Paoli Transit Center, but … how does he show his support for the project?  With the defeat of the transportation funding bill, Rep. Kampf is going to have many very unhappy Paoli business owners who were counting on state financial support through this transportation bill, now looking to him for answers. And if the PA Turnpike Commission removes the Tredyffrin section of the widening project from their ‘to do’ list, 4,000 local residents are not going to be pleased and will want someone to blame.

I may not personally agree with Rep. Kampf on his vote not to support the transportation funding bill, but I do give him credit for his unfaltering commitment.  He reported that he has 60,000 constituents who did not want him to support the transportation bill because it’s funding was tied to higher gas prices.  Wrong or right, he never wavered on the transportation funding bill and his vote reflected that decision.

Bottom line … without the approval of the transportation funding bill, the residents of Pennsylvania are left with deteriorating roads and bridges and an uncertain future for the Paoli Transit Center and the PA turnpike widening project.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Seeking Support for Transportation Funding Bill from PA State Rep. Warren Kampf (R-157)

The infrastructure in Pennsylvania is in trouble and our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems are not going to fix themselves – they need funding.

Earlier this year the PA Senate passed a $2.5 billion transportation funding proposal but the House has yet to vote on the measure … but time is running short for the state lawmakers to make a decision about the transportation funding bill. When elected officials return to Harrisburg on Tuesday, November 12, following their election recess, they only have about 10 session days to get the bill to Gov. Corbett for his signature before the end of the year.

Most of the money (approximately $1.9 billion) in the transportation bill would go for road, bridge and tunnel improvements with an additional $500 million earmarked for mass transit projects. In April 2011, I cited a newly released Transportation of America study that named Pennsylvania as first in the nation for having the “largest percentage of structurally deficient bridges”. Without additional funding, the structurally deficient bridges are likely to be weight-restricted, and in some cases, closed.  Beyond the obvious travel difficulties (and potential safety risks) for motorists, the deteriorating infrastructure is no boon to the state’s economic situation.

Of particular interest in the transportation funding bill is the $500 million component marked for mass transit   – one would think that the Paoli Transit Center project would be a candidate. The long and winding road for the Paoli Transit Center looks to now hinge on receiving funding from the proposed transportation bill.   According to Tredyffrin Township Manager Bill Martin, in a MLMN article last month, “If the state can’t meet its current infrastructure needs, all new transportation projects – including Paoli’s – will be held up. Funding brings in more funding. Without state dollars for the project, we can’t get federal dollars and we won’t be able to make deals with private developers.” 

Beyond the Paoli redevelopment project, the Tredyffrin residents whose properties are close to the PA Turnpike, specifically in the Great Valley, Chesterbrook and Glenhardie areas, are seeing the turnpike widening and sound wall plan  ‘on hold’ pending the passage of the transportation funding bill.   The PA Turnpike Commissioners have not approved their fiscal year 2014 Capital Plan that contains the turnpike widening and associated sound walls in Tredyffrin Township. According to a recent email that I received as a member of the PA Turnpike Design Roundtable, “The delay in the [Capital Plan] approval is linked to the ongoing negotiations for statewide transportation funding.  … Hopefully, transportation funding will be address in the near future, and a fiscal year 2014 Capital Plan will be approved.”

The proposed transportation bill that is waiting for approval from State lawmakers significantly impacts two major Tredyffrin Township projects – the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike (in addition to the improvement of state roads and bridges in the township).  The bill overwhelmingly cleared the Senate in June, what is it going to take for the lawmakers in the House to approve it and send it on to Gov. Corbett for his signature?

Low approval ratings and a challenging reelection battle looming, has Corbett stumping for the passage of the transportation bill.  According to the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll (October 2013), only one in five registered voters (20%) in Pennsylvania approve of the job that Corbett is doing and 61 percent believe that the state is “off on the wrong track”.   You have to think that the passage of a $2.5 billion transportation bill that would improve roads, bridges and transit systems could help boost the Governor’s sagging approval ratings.

State representatives Warren Kampf (R-157) and Duane Milne (R-167) each have a section of the PA Turnpike in their Districts and likewise their Districts overlap in the Paoli redevelopment project.  And like Governor Corbett, Republicans Kampf and Milne are both up for reelection in 2014. Milne is on record as supporting the transportation bill, stating in Main Line Suburban, “Without a substantial transportation bill, there is close to zero chance that the Paoli project gets funded in anywhere close to the foreseeable future. Our state is near the bottom in terms of its roads and transportation system. There is no revenue stream that will let us do first-class upgrades to our roads and infrastructure. If there’s no bill, it’s going to hurt our ability to do new projects like Paoli. We’ll be looking at the status quo or at a declining status quo.”

On the other hand, Kampf has been vocal in his opposition of the proposed transportation bill, at least in its present form.  Although Kampf in not questioning the need for infrastructure improvements, he objects to lifting the tax ceiling on gas wholesalers that would then be passed onto consumers as a means of paying for transportation improvements.  According to his Op-Ed article on TE Patch,  Kampf states that the, “passage of this legislation as it is today offers no guarantees for the future of that, or any other, local project.”   We know that there is no guarantee on project allocation in the funding bill but there is a flipside to this argument — What happens to the Paoli Transit Center project if the currently proposed transportation bill passes the House without Kampf’s signature?

With neighboring District state representatives at odds over the transportation bill, this could be the death knell for our local train station redevelopment project.  If the bill passes without Kampf’s support it seems probable that the funding for the Paoli Transit Center is likely to be used elsewhere

 I understand that Rep. Kampf does not want to increase taxes and is particularly concerned about what the increase in gas tax could mean to seniors, families, and small businesses that are already struggling. Kampf claims that the majority of the constituents who have contacted him do not support an increase in gas taxes to fund road, bridges and transit system improvements.  As one of his constituents, I disagree.  If he spoke to the 4,000 residents in the Great Valley, Chesterbrook and Glenhardie areas impacted by the PA Turnpike widening and sound wall project, I’m guessing that they too would encourage his support of the transportation funding bill.

With a reelection campaign ahead in 2014, is Kampf’s political calculus that the voters will punish him for supporting the transportation bill if it means raising the cost of gas.  In my opinion, it is more likely that the voters will punish him if he doesn’t support the bill, especially if it means the loss of the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike projects for Tredyffrin.

It’s difficult for elected officials to support a tax increase when they are not running for office – but when its election year, the task is all but impossible.  If Corbett does not have the proposed transportation funding bill on his desk in 2013, it seems unlikely that it will resurface in 2014 (election year).

The infrastructure in Pennsylvania is in trouble and our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems are not going to fix themselves – they need funding and the money has to come from somewhere.  The clock is running down for State lawmakers to maake a decision on transportation funding.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

PA Laws Need to Change to Protect our Family Pets

How sad and senseless was the killing a couple of weeks ago, of two Bernese Mountain dogs in West Vincent Township?  My friend and blogger extraordinaire Carla Zambelli of Chester County Ramblings, has had a major impact on this story. Carla has used her social media skills and connections to seek justice for the dogs and to encourage legislation to protect the rights of our family pets.

As I understand what happened, the two family pets (Argus and Fiona) of Mary and William Bock and their five children, escaped from their fenced yard in Chester Springs. Apparently, the homeowner was unaware of a hole in the fence, caused by a fallen tree limb.  According to Mary Bock, from the time the dogs escaped the yard, until the time the pair were found dead in neighbor Gabe Pilotti’s yard was only about 15 minutes.

Pilotti originally told police that Argus and Fiona were after his sheep in an enclosed pen in his yard.  However, during the investigation, the police determined that the pair of dogs was not chasing the sheep when Pilotti shot them with his shotgun.  Using a single shotgun, means that Pilotti shot the first dog and then would have to remove the shell, and reload with another bullet to shoot the second dog.

Based on an old Pennsylvania state law that permits an individual to kill animals that threaten their livestock, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office originally determined that Pilotti had not committed a crime.  However a couple of days ago, District Attorney Tom Hogan reversed course and filed criminal charges against Pilotti – two counts of cruelty to animals and one count of recklessly endangering another person. Hogan said that the century-old state law did not protect Pilotti because the Bernese Mountain dogs were not attacking his sheep when he shot them.

Pilotti told the police that the dogs had not hurt the sheep and admitted that he did not try to scare the dogs off his property before killing them!  In fact, Pilotti admitted that Argus was not near the sheep and was actually walking towards him when he shot him in the head.  Because the direction Pilotti shot his gun was towards a private residence, the DA’s office added the reckless endangerment to the list of charges.

For regular readers of Community Matters, I have made no secret about my feelings related to guns and need for increased gun control legislation.  This senseless killing of family pets is just another example of what guns can do in the wrong hands and why gun laws need to change in America. Regardless of what happens with his pending criminal case, I am of the opinion that Pilotti needs a complete mental health examination before he is ever allowed to own a gun in the future.  Here’s a question – if Pilotti is convicted of this crime, does it affect his rights to own a gun? Unfortunately, I am confident that if he found ‘not guilty’, his retains his gun rights, just not sure what happens if he convicted.

Life is about making choices. Gabriel Pilotti had a choice when he found Argus and Fiona on his property.  Instead of picking up his cellphone and calling 9-1-1 or chasing the dogs from his yard, he chose to grab his shotgun … leaving a family grieving for their pets.  Pilotti will have to live with the consequences of his horrific choice.

Pilotti has been charged with the crime … now; Pennsylvania laws need to change to protect our pets.  As Carla writes on Chester County Ramblings, Punishment AND fines for animal cruelty need to be tougher all the way around.  It needs to mean more than an inconvenience.”

Thank you Carla for your efforts in seeking justice for Argus and Fiona. So their death was not in vain, along with Carla, I urge you to contact your local elected officials and help be the force behind getting laws changed to protect our family pets. Locally our Pennsylvania contacts are Sen. Andy Dinniman, Andy@psenate.com and State Rep. Warren Kamp, wkampf@pahousegop.com . Send them an email and ask them to support animal rights legislation.  According to Carla’s blog, himself an animal rights advocate, Sen. Dinniman is working a law that “would allow pet owners to civilly sue those who harm or kill their pets.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Constitutional Conversations in Tredyffrin Township

What do you get when you mix a Republican T/E School Board member with a recently elected Tredyffrin Township Republican committee person? The answer, as I discovered on Saturday, is a new township cable show, ‘Constitutional Conversations’ co-hosted by T/E School Board member Dr. Rich Brake and M-4 Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee man Dennis Gallagher.

Flipping TV channels, I was surprised to see Rich Brake on a township cable show.  I caught the last 5 minutes of Constitutional Conversations and heard Gallagher mention that this was “In Order for Form a More Perfect Union”, Part 1 of a 5-part series on the Constitution, co-hosted by Brake and Gallagher

I discovered that this new cable show, which made its debut on Thursday, June 28, has an associated blog called Constitutional Conversations, www.constitutional-conversations.com where you can watch the show’s segments.  The site also offers some background on the co-hosts and the background of their show.  According to their blog,

“ … Constitutional Conversations was conceived at the grassroots level in Tredyffrin Township in Chester County, PA. In the latter part of 2011 Dr. Richard Brake, a resident of Tredyffrin and co-host of Constitutional Conversations, gave a lecture on the Constitution which was attended by some Tredyffrin community leaders. After the lecture the township leaders approached Dr. Brake requesting him to produce a series on the Constitution for the township’s public access television station. They felt that such a series would be an excellent educational opportunity for the township residents and also a wise use of the township’s public access television facilities.

Subsequently Dr. Brake collaborated with Dennis Gallagher, also a resident of Tredyffrin, to produce a five part series on the Constitution entitled Constitutional Conversations. The purpose of this series is to tell the story behind how America’s Constitution came into being, the debates amongst America’s founding fathers as to its design, and the various debates throughout America’s history that continue up to today as to how America’s Constitution should be interpreted in our modern society.”

Most of us know Rich Brake as a member of the T/E School Board.  In addition to his elected position, Brake serves as the National Director of Education at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington, DE. According to their website, “ISI seeks to enhance the rising generation’s knowledge of our nation’s founding principles — limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, market economy, and moral norms.”  Brake is listed online as a member of two local Tea Party groups, Chester County Patriots and Valley Forge Patriots.  Brake and I have been playing ‘email tag’ over the last month, trying to schedule a meeting to discuss a Constitution class he was giving for local TTGOP committee people and his involvement in the Tea Party movement (The June Constitution class was ultimately cancelled).

I was not familiar with Dennis Gallagher except that the show bio indicates is the TTRC Committeeman for M-4, which includes part of Chesterbrook.  In the last election, Gallagher ousted Jim Bailey (a friend of mine) by a very small margin, to serve as Republican M-4 Committeeman.  The cable show identified Gallagher as a ‘Constitution Scholar’ and a bit of research indicated that he is the founder and editor of  Political Policy, www.politicalpolicy.net, a blog whose “ … mission is to advance traditional conservatism and preserve America’s First Principles.”

It appears that Gallagher and Brake may have been blood brothers in a former life … apparently sharing similar views on traditional conservatism, limited government and Founding Father principles, they have come together for ‘Constitutional Conversations’ to discuss and educate the public on the Constitution.  Looking ahead to upcoming topics to be discussed on the cable show, they have scheduled Part 5: Health Care and the Constitution for August 20.

In last week’s landmark ruling, the Supreme Court announced that in a 5-4 decision (with Justice Kennedy dissenting and Chief Justice Roberts writing the decision) that Obamacare, for the most part is constitutional.  It could be interesting to hear the discussion of the health care decision by the Supreme Court discussed by Brake and Gallagher in the final segment of Constitutional Conversations.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

Update:  For the first time since I began Community Matters nearly 3 years ago, I substantially edited an article after it was posted.  Originally when I posted this article on ‘Constitutional Conversations’, I included comments from local attorney John Petersen.  Within a span of less than 24 hours, I received some negative comments and emails about my post and Petersen’s remarks. As a result, I made the decision to edit the post and  remove his comments.

I need to be clear … Mr. Petersen did not volunteer to give his remarks on this post, I asked for his comments on Constitutional Conversations and then posted those comments.  However today, I made the decision to remove his remarks along with the associated comments.  Regrettably, I did not notify Mr. Petersen until after I removed his remarks.   As a result of my actions and decision to remove his comments and associated comments, Mr. Petersen wants to set the record straight on this matter and I am honoring that request.   Below are Mr. Petersen’s new updated remarks on this blog post. 

I’d like to respond to the comments re: the objections over my solicited comments re: Messer’s Brake and Gallagher and their foray into the world constitutional analysis. Accordingly, I’m happy to provide the substance of my point here.

Context is everything. So… when folks look at the “Constitutional Conversations”, they should to look at that in the context of these items:

Rich Brake:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSkd63MnntA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPbFY8PJ8cs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn5RTnqyPAI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGkCa9wREIs

Dennis Gallagher:
http://www.politicalpolicy.net/
https://twitter.com/#!/grandestparty

If you are going to be considered a “Scholar” – then the body of your work, your statements, etc needs to be looked at in its entirely. You cannot simply cherry pick the things you want.

So…if we are going to evaluate, then let’s evaluate the whole cloth. If you view the cable show on its own, in a vacuum, then you lack the necessary context of what these guys are about. They are quite clever – starting with the seemingly innocuous historical facts. But look how it ends – with health care? It’s not like they leave these extreme political positions at the door. They have a right to say what they want. Folks have a right to be fully informed about what these guys stand for and that their real agenda is advancing their own political view points. It’s kind of ironic when much of what they say is about how the “Left” has captured the media, academia, etc. It’s actually more hypocritical than ironic. That was MY point – that these guys are not really acting in the role of “Constitutional Scholar”. Rather, they are acting as covert politicos that are using the constitutional topic as a pre-text.  One may say “Gee John, that’s just YOUR opinion.” To that, I’d say “Yes, it’s my opinion, but it is an informed opinion.” I’d also say to those same people “You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.” My only exception to this are places like school board meetings where recently, Brake has decided to use that platform as part of his “Constitutional Scholar” outlet. I think that is way out-of-bounds.

With that, let’s confront the question of whether these two guys are “Constitutional Scholars.” This matter needs to be settled before it is determined whether getting into the sum and substance of these shows is warranted. If one can argue that these two are not constitutional scholars in spite of the fact that they call themselves that, we can settle the matter right there. That would seem to me to be a reasonable approach.

As to whether they are “Constitutional Scholars” – I’d have to ask them for their credentials. I get the fact that Brake has a PhD – in American Politics. I get that he knows a lot of historical facts. But what I also get is that much of what he says is laced with a very specific political agenda. For backup on that assertion, I cite the YouTube links listed above.

As for Gallagher, sorry to have to be the voice of reason here, but part way through an online school for an MA in History with a concentration in American History simply does not rate one the title of “Constitutional Scholar.”  That, coupled with his tweets, blog posts, etc – give evidence to what is also a very definite political viewpoint that are clearly, deep rooted beliefs.

Note, I’m not judging Gallagher’s and Brake’s political view points. I’m indifferent as their viewpoints don’t affect me one bit. I don’t agree with them, but that is not the point. They have every right to express their view points. That said, one of them is an elected official and one of them is an elected committeeman. They have direct involvement in the political process which makes them public/semi-public personalities. When you place your views in the market place of ideas, you invite scrutiny. Whether you are able to withstand/tolerate that scrutiny is another matter.

To be a constitutional scholar, you need to be a lawyer, a law professor and somebody who spends the bulk of their professional life in that arena. Likely, you were  a SCOTUS clerk or at the very least, a clerk at the Court of Appeals. You likely have written a horn book and have NUMEROUS law review articles. You do that, you are a constitutional scholar.  People like Erwin Chemerinsky, Jonathan Turley, Lawrence Lessig, Laurance Tribe, Cass Sunstein, Akhil Amar, etc. These folks are the real deal. I’m a lawyer and have studied constitutional law – and I don’t consider myself even close to being a constitutional scholar. And based on the aforementioned criteria, neither is Brake nor Gallagher. In my opinion, it says a lot about a person who is willing to have a label applied to them that they have not earned. They are certainly not shy about expressing their opinion on their forum. They should “Scholarly” enough to withstand some criticism. Certainly, Dr. Brake had to do that when he had to defend his dissertation. Shying away from the criticism and not realizing it’s a two-way street says a lot about a person. It’s one thing to lecture and get into 1-way conversations. I think Dr. Brake would cite that is a problem with the “Liberal Academic Establishment.”

And with that, since they are not Constitutional Scholars, I really don’t need to get into the sum and substance of what they are talking about. But if called upon to do so, I’m more than happy to engage.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Paoli Transportation Center project — Taking Another Step

Monday morning marks the next step for the Paoli Transportation Center project!

Five months ago on January 31, I wrote that SEPTA had awarded a $7.5 million contract to Gannett Fleming for the design of a new Paoli regional rail station and parking garage.  The plan calls for building the new station 80 feet west of the current train station location to better connect SEPTA and private buses.  The plan will involve high-level platforms and the reworking of Amtrak interlocking system.  PennDOT selected Parsons Brinckerhoff for the interlocking design work on the Keystone Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, which include the Paoli Transportation Center. Gannett Fleming design work is to take place through 2014.

At the same time that SEPTA announced its award to Gannett Fleming, the township selected McMahon Associates as the engineering consultant team to complete a study to outline recommendations for the necessary road improvements, including the bridge, needed to support the new transportation center.  The McMahon study will address congestion, public safety and establish a plan for an overall vision for the new train station through traffic calming, streetscape and intersection modifications.  This is a state-funded project and completion is expected by the end of 2013.

Tredyffrin selected Bergmann Associates as the engineering team to design the signal and roadway improvements for the intersection at Rt. 252 and 30.  The design will be based on the 2011 feasibility study.  This design study is state and federally funded and expected to be completed by 2013/14.

Well folks, it looks like the Paoli Transportation project is taking its next step – tomorrow, Monday, June 25 at 7:30 AM, there’s a press conference at Paoli Village Shoppes to officially announce the start of the Paoli Transportation Center project.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Long-Term Pension Reform … Only Solution For Pennsylvania Taxpayers

As school boards across the state are scrambling to balance their own budgets, it’s also crunch time in Harrisburg. At this point, it is unclear how much help the Governor and his administration is willing to provide in the budget for education.  Even if Corbett restores some of the education funding in the state budget, it seems impossible that the economic crisis in school districts will be solved.

School boards have been put in the difficult position of making tough decisions on educational programming cuts, staff reductions, increased class sizes, etc. in an attempt to balance budgets.  But looking ahead, how does the state and local school districts handle the inevitable … the pension tsunami. Whether it is the pensions of the state government workers or the public school teachers, how is it possible to solve this seemingly impossible situation?

The State Employee Retirement System (SERS) and Public School Employment Retirement Association (PSERS) enjoyed huge investment gains in the 1990’s and the pension funds climbed to 123 percent. In their wisdom at the time, legislators decided to reduce the state’s contribution in May 2001 (known as Act 9).  However, without the benefit of crystal ball forecasting, four months later the world plunged into a recession and the pension funds balances began to fall.  Unfortunately the state’s pension problems were increased with the passage of Act 40 in 2002, which allowed the state to continue to lower their contributions to the pension, increased the employee contribution rate to 7.5 percent and provided for a cost of living adjustment (COLA).

The next round to pound the state pension plans was the recession of 2008.  As a result, the once overfunded pension system plummeted and is currently funded at around 80 percent.  Couple the underfunded pensions with the fact that a wave of baby boomers are set to retire this year thru 2016.  How are the school districts (taxpayers) going to make up the unfunded liabilities?  Pennsylvania school boards are left to manage the 800-lb gorilla in the room – Harrisburg’s public pension crisis.

We know that the only solution to the problem is a long-term pension reform plan.  I have written several articles on the absolute need to overhaul the pension system of Pennsylvania’s state workers. (If interested, enter ‘pension reform’ in the search box on the home page of Community Matters).  It is no longer possible for the state to fund a traditional defined-benefit plan; a change to some type of 401(K) pension plan is needed (required) for all future state employees and public school teachers.

The move away from traditional defined benefit pension plans, where the investment risk is borne by the taxpayer, is long overdue. There really is no other way.  Many legislators have addressed the need for pension reform, including our state representative, Warren Kampf (R-157) who held a town hall meeting on the subject this past March. (Click here).

The school districts do not control teacher pensions – Harrisburg does. The precarious, ‘at the edge of the cliff’ situation of school districts will continue as long as there is no pension reform. There is no ‘new’ news on the pension disaster; it has been staring lawmakers in the face for some time.  But now that the pension crisis is upon us, the real question is … how do we get Harrisburg to act … and to act quickly!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Community Matters © 2017 Frontier Theme