Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Paul Drucker

Election Day 2010 . . . The Day After

Driving many voters to the polls across the country in yesterday’s election was the theme of anxiety and disappointment. Just about everywhere, Election Day 2010 felt far removed from 2008. Two years ago, after all, there was no Tea Party. The rise of the conservative Tea Party movement added a new element to the election cycle, boosting little-known and inexperienced candidates into national media spotlight and in some cases, ultimate victory over mainstream political figures. Guess the jury is out whether the Tea Party movement will remain a lasting force in American politics.

Two years ago, the nation was in financial shock. Now hard times are all too familiar. I heard one report that 30% of all voters yesterday had first-hand experience with unemployment; with an immediate family member currently out-of-work. With such difficult economic times, it was particularly depressing to read that this long and bitter campaign season cost more than $3.5 billion. How many better ways could these billions of dollars been spent in this country?

These past two years, politics across America has been fueled by turmoil – town hall meetings that dissolved into shouting matches, persistent questions about the motives of leaders on both sides and a non-stop partisan battling. Enough negativity and nastiness existed to spawn last weekend’s rally in Washington with John Stewart, all in the name of restoring sanity in America.

The disappointment and helpless sentiment was not hard to find across the country in an election that took place against a backdrop of persistently high unemployment, no sign of real improvement in the economy and divisive politics. Everywhere you look, people seem to be looking for someone or something to blame – whether the President, Congress, a political party, etc. Finding someone to blame would make things a lot easier to accept; but I am not entirely sure that is realistic.

Locally, in the State House 157 race, Warren Kampf defeated incumbent State Rep Paul Drucker. As a current sitting supervisor, Kampf will be vacating his Tredyffrin seat for his new job in Harrisburg. His departure from Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors is only an assumption . . . maybe there is no requirement and he can be both a state representative and a township supervisor.

Many have been let down, including myself, about the partisan divide and what seems unwillingness for people to work together and move forward. There is much work to be done in the country, the Commonwealth and here in Tredyffrin Township but . . . I remain hopeful for the future.

Negative Political Campaigning Needs to End . . . Election Day 2010 Cannot Come Soon Enough!

Tuesday cannot get here soon enough! Turn on the television and you are certain to see a barrage of negative campaign ads from various candidates attacking their opponents. With Election Day 2010 just days away, households across America are being attacked by negative political ads. Without an invitation, the negative attack ads are finding their way into our homes, by way of television, robo-calls, on our computers and in our mailboxes.

Everyday someone says to me they cannot wait until Wednesday when it’s over, and Election Day 2010 will be only a memory. The amount of time, energy and money spent on negative sound bites feels eternal… and maybe it is. With unlimited dollars (both domestic and foreign) buying airtime, it takes a persistent and dedicated voter to ferret-out all the paid-for misinformation. People complain and say they hate the ads, the mailers, the political phone calls and the mudslinging that we see in the news articles and the opinion pieces. But they must work. After all, it is amazing how much money is spent on these political campaigns.

Look at the contents of the political ads on TV and in the campaign mailers. The distortion, the exaggerations, the misleading claims – the blatant lies. True or false? Fact or Fiction? Most of the campaign ads are more like half-truths, half-falsehoods – and a lot of embellishment.

But do these negative ads actually work . . . do they influence decisions? I would like to hope that they don’t work and that they don’t influence voters. I want to believe that voters are smarter and more informed and that they rise above the distortions and exaggerations. Unfortunately, psychological research has shown that the brain processes negative information more deeply than positive information. Guess political campaigners support the scientific research and have decided that negative ads do work – at least better than positive ads.

By the time the calendar hit mid-October, the viciousness of the negative ads had picked up momentum. And it is no surprise that the closer the individual race, the more negative the ads. Research suggests that negative campaign ads work even though people hate them. I think the potential also exists that people just get tired of the negative campaign season and that this feeling can actually drive the voter turnout down. Eventually, after being influenced by the candidate’s negative campaigning, is it possible that a voter would just stay home on Tuesday, thinking “why bother?”

Negative ads can have a powerful impact; people tend to remember them. . . . Isn’t that why bad news always enjoys more ‘play time’ on TV than good news. I would bet that none of these ads tells the whole truth – the truth you would accept as a reasonable person. Almost all the negative ads are partial or biased on one way or another or just misleading. In a perfect world, positive ads would have as much an impact as the negative ones. What would happen if someone ran an issue-based campaign with no mention of the opponent and no mudslinging? Would an issue-based campaign ever be possible in today’s society? Would it even work?

Where does all this leave us for Election Day; what is a voter to do? There are no campaign enforcement police making sure everyone is telling the truth. My hope for all of you who hold the privilege to vote is to think for yourself. Do a little research and use that developed human brain of yours. Please try not to be influenced by the negative campaign ads. Your vote is worth more than a nay saying ad or a half-truth campaign mailer.

I hope that residents in our community have enough sense and reason to make logical decisions and can only hope that others beyond Tredyffrin will do the same. I would ask that you stay informed by multiple sources. Think for yourself, beyond what your neighbor, your friend or co-worker favors. Know the candidates and support those who have shown ethical behavior. Exercise your right to vote in a sane, thoughtful manner and make your vote count this Tuesday!

PA State Representative 157 Race – Candidate Question #6 and Response

This is the final week of candidate questions and responses on Community Matters. As stated in the beginning, there were 6 questions ending the week before the election. To those that followed the discussion, thank you. To those that provided commentary to the responses, thank you.

Although disappointed that candidate Warren Kampf chose not to participate in the Candidate Question & Response forum, I do want to acknowledge and thank State Representative Paul Drucker for his participation and responses to the questions. During the past 6 weeks of candidate questions and responses, I abided by my ‘own terms’ and did not offer an opinion nor respond personally to any of the questions or comments.

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This is the Candidate Question & Response Forum for the Pennsylvania State House 157 candidates. As previously stated, candidate Warren Kampf declined to participate in the question and response forum. Candidate Paul Drucker’s response follows the question. Each Monday for six weeks, a new question and response will be posted. The candidate forum will end the week before the election.

Question #6: Many politicians speak of the need for reform in Harrisburg. In your opinion, where is the greatest need for reform and how will you support that reform.

Paul Drucker’s Response

I was motivated to seek election to the Pennsylvania State House two years ago to help usher in a new era of reform, openness and accountability.

From the pay-raise to Bonusgate, I was shocked at the news coming out of Harrisburg and disappointed that our elected officials seemed so unwilling to deliver the type of meaningful change we deserve.

That’s why I organized an event with fellow first time candidates to propose specific changes to how Harrisburg does business. And that’s why I am fighting every day to reform our redistricting process, encourage whistleblowers to come forward and ensure taxpayers know exactly how their money is being spent.

The Phoenix Provides State House Rep 157 Candidate Profiles: Paul Drucker, Warren Kampf

The Phoenix newspaper has posted profiles for State House Representative 157 candidates Paul Drucker and Warren Kampf. Although the article did not indicate, I am assuming that the newspaper asked for candidate comments specifically on tax and job issues. The candidates remarks are below:

State House Rep 157 Candidate Profile: Paul Drucker

Taxes: Paul is committed to ensuring that homeowners in the 157th District aren’t unduly burdened by property taxes. Though a necessary source of funding for many projects, property taxes often place an undue burden on homeowners—especially on our seniors. Paul is dedicated to ensuring a sane, responsible property tax policy that doesn’t burden our senior citizens.

Jobs: Paul is dedicated to bringing jobs and economic activity to our district, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to earn and feel safe from the mounting pressures of everyday financial challenges.

State House Rep 157 Candidate Profile: Warren Kampf

Jobs: Warren knows families are hurting in today’s economy and they are worried about making ends meet and securing good-paying jobs – that’s why he’ll make job creation his top priority in Harrisburg. Make Pennsylvania More Competitive; Invest in Small Business and the Jobs of Tomorrow.

Taxes: Warren is as frustrated as every other taxpayer and homeowner that the politicians in Harrisburg promise property tax relief every year but nothing ever gets done. Use Gaming Money as Promised; Ending Pork Barrel Spending.

Tredyffrin Shows Support for Historic Preservation

Last night was the annual In the Mood fundraiser for Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and I am pleased to reported that it was another successful Trust event. The stone barn at King’s Grant Farm was transformed, 1950’s style for the evening. Owned by Jeff and Cindy King, we thank them for their generosity and support. In addition to the use of the barn for In the Mood, the Jeff and Cindy King Foundation has made a very generous donation to the Capital Campaign of the Jones Log Barn rebuilding project.

It was wonderful to have many community members show their support for historic preservation — the event attracted some of our former and current elected officials from the school board and board of supervisors. Former State House Rep Carole Rubley, a member of the In the Mood committee, attended with her husband as did current State House Rep Paul Drucker and his wife. Many local historic preservation supporters attended the Trust event as did guests from Exton, Bryn Mawr and Villanova.

Setting aside politics for the evening, this was an opportunity for some real fun . . . whether answering trivia questions provided by DJ Dick Spindler, dancing to 50’s music supplied by a wonderful vintage jukebox; demonstrating your expertise at the hula-hoop; following co-chair Judy DiFilippo’s lead in the Bunny Hop or taking your turn to strut your stuff for ‘The Stroll’ . . . In the Mood provided something for everyone. Poodle skirts, pony tails, black leather jackets, letter sweaters and penny loafers were the dress for the evening! One of the crowd favorites was Paoli resident Gio D’Amato and wife Fran, both dressed to perfection in vintage 50’s style!

Judy and I thank the King’s for hosting the event, the Trust Board of Directors, our sponsors and contributors, the community members who attended and a special thank you to the volunteers of the In the Mood Committee — it was a magical night and thank you all!

T/E School Board Holds Public Informational Meeting Tonight on Earned Income Tax (EIT)

As the T/E School District begins the budget development process for 2011-2012, a budget balancing strategy from last year was to determine the effect an earned income tax (EIT) would have on the school district and its residents. Tonight (7:30 – 9:00 PM, Conestoga High School auditorium) is an informational presentation from a representative from the Pennsylvania Economy League.

The School Board will not make a decision tonight; in regards to an EIT; the session is strictly informational. Again, I applaud the efforts of the School Board in their willingness to disseminate the EIT information in a transparent, public manner. This public meeting tonight is a good first step — educating the School Board and the community on EIT so an informed decision can be made at a later date.

On the subject of the School Board, the following letter came across my desk today from the president-CEO of the nonprofit research and educational group, Commonwealth Foundation. There are some harsh words for the teacher unions. With many of the local teacher contracts up for negotiations, it is going to be interesting to see how wide-spread the negativity towards teacher unions is and how it will affect the process.

Dear Commonwealth Foundation Friends:

Support for school choice is becoming more and more bipartisan, as both sides of the ideological aisle begin to realize that maybe—just maybe—the teachers unions have their own agenda, and that ensuring the best possible education for our kids may not be their first priority.

In last Monday’s update, I mentioned that I was scheduled to testify that Wednesday before a Senate Education Committee hearing on the future of school choice and opportunity scholarships. It was quite an experience: an all-day free-for-all that included a remarkable exchange between Senator Andrew Dinniman, the Democratic Chairman of the committee, and a Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) representative, whom Sen. Dinniman sharply criticized for frustrating committee efforts to meet to discuss reform measures. Sen. Dinniman event went so as to wonder alond whether PSEA’s commitment to students is just “window dressing.”

We’ve known all along that teacher union bosses care first and foremost about one thing: preserving their own taxpayer-funded perks and cushy pensions, while at the same time making sure that they are never made to justify any of it. Meanwhile, the poorest and most vulnerable of our kids are being warehoused in failing schools, while these well-paid union reps stand at the schoolhouse door, blocking any reform that might make a real difference in the lives and futures of these kids. It’s outrageous.

We know that whoever wins next month’s gubernatorial campaign, our next governor will be sympathetic to the issue of choice in education. Though we may be getting a friendlier and more receptive set of ears in the Governor’s Mansion come January, this debate is by no means over. Any measures to reform our schools will be seen as a threat to the teachers unions and to the entrenched bureaucrats whose very careers and livelihoods depend on maintaining the status quo. We’re going to keep up the good fight. Together, we will work to ensure that every child in the Commonwealth has access to a safe, top-notch education, regardless of his or her family income, or the zip code in which he or she happens to live!

Fighting for Your Freedom,

Matthew J. Brouillette
President & CEO

PA State Representative 157 Race – Candidate Question #5 and Response

This is the Candidate Question & Response Forum for the Pennsylvania State House 157 candidates. As previously stated, candidate Warren Kampf declined to participate in the question and response forum. Candidate Paul Drucker’s response follows the question. Each Monday for six weeks, a new question and response will be posted. The candidate forum will end the week before the election.

Question #5: Small business owners are struggling to keep their doors open in today’s economy. What should government do to help them?

Paul Drucker’s Response:

The best way for government to help all business, small and large, is to make an environment that is friendly to them. One step government can take to help small business owners is to improve local downtowns and develop older communities.

What’s more, we need to ensure that businesses, particularly start-ups and small businesses, are taxed at a fair and responsible rate. With that in mind, lowering property taxes is not only important for homeowners, but for business owners as well.

As I mentioned earlier, it is critical that we have a well-educated workforce and provide small businesses access to capital in this tight credit market.

And, once again, we cannot separate economic development from our transportation needs. We will not attract 21st century businesses with a 20th century infrastructure.

Would the Founding Fathers Be Happy?

It’s only 2-1/2 weeks until Election Day 2010, and it’s not easy to find something that Americans agree on these days.

Referencing our own backyard, the Philadelphia Inquirer today refers to the Drucker-Kampf Race as a ‘battleground house race’. With just a couple of weeks remaining until Election Day, the rhetoric continues at a heightened level with much at stake . . . both sides dissatisfied with the other and both parties anxious to see their candidate win. The growing tension is recognized everywhere we look . . . I am receiving nearly daily robocalls from campaigns in addition to regular candidate mailings.

We turn on the news and there is more mud-slinging and political divide. We have witnessed the emergence of the Tea-Party Movement, describing themselves as a “community committed to standing together, shoulder to shoulder, to protect our country and the Constitution upon which we were founded.”

Locally, the Valley Forge Patriots website claims Tea-Party Conservative status and the goal of their organization “to protest and act to remove: out of control federal spending, impending huge taxation of ALL Americans, governmental and corporate fraud and abuse, and legislation which will reduce our Freedoms, Invade, and Control our Personal Lives.” The group honors Glenn Beck and asks that supporters join their weekly mall rallies on Rt. 202, King of Prussia, noon to 3 PM each Saturday. I find myself struggling to understand some of the tea-party viewpoints; but it is apparent that others do support and are following their cause.

Anger, hatred, discontent . . . it’s so hard to see this in America today. Will the results of Election Day 2010 somehow ‘right’ the wrongs of the past and satisfy those looking for a change? Will Americans wake up the morning after Election Day and believe that the government will now self-correct to their liking with the election results? Will having their candidate win on Election Day suddenly improve their quality of life? Will the partisan political divide somehow lessen based on who wins the election?

Interesting questions . . . especially, as we look at our own battleground and the Drucker-Kampf state house race.

Pressure on for Pa. midterm . . . The balance of power in Harrisburg is at stake, and both parties are fighting hard to help their chances.
By Angela Couloumbis
Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG – Outside the halls of the Capitol, in the main streets of small towns and big cities, Democrats and Republicans are waging a fierce battle for control of the state House of Representatives. Just three seats separate haves from have-nots in the 203-member House, where Democrats hold the majority and the power that comes with it: the coveted ability to drive the legislative agenda and, next year, the upper hand in the once-a-decade redistricting process.

With so much at stake, both parties have been feverishly fund-raising, spending, and strategizing to get voters to pull the lever for them Nov. 2 . . .

Battleground House races in the Philadelphia suburbs include Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith (D., Chester) against Dan Truitt, Rep. Paul Drucker (D., Montgomery) against Warren Kampf, Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D., Bucks) against Rob Ciervo, Rep. Matt Bradford (D., Montgomery) against Jay Moyer, and Rep. Rick Taylor (D., Montgomery) against Todd Stephens.

G. Terry Madonna, veteran pollster at Franklin and Marshall College, said that given the political stakes, voters could expect to hear a lot in the next few weeks about these and other legislative races.

For starters, there is redistricting. State legislative and congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years based on the census. The process will start in earnest with the new legislature next year. If the GOP controls both chambers, the party could redraw the maps to benefit its candidates.

Do Political Campaign Signs influence your vote? How About in the Drucker vs Kampf election?

Do political campaign signs make a difference in in election results? Do they influence individual voter decisions? Do how many signs a candidate has, or conversely a perceived lack of signs by individual candidates have any effect on voters?

In driving around the township yesterday, there certainly is a plethora of political signage. At least now, the leftover campaign signs of former Republican Lieutenant Governor Candidate Daryl Metcalfe are no longer alone. Metcalfe came in a distant third in the May primary but his red and white signs remain ever-present in our community 5 months later! Which begs the question, which is responsible for removal of the signs post-election . . . the candidate, the political party, volunteers?

Political signs display grassroots support. When voters display your political campaign signs in their yards, it shows neighbors that they believe in you enough to temporarily alter the landscape of their property. Recognizing the power of that association, does that influence other voters?

Among the traditional campaign signs, I noted a new political sign, ‘Republican for Paul Drucker’. As a Democrat and incumbent State House Representative Candidate, Paul is looking to gather support from the registered voters of the opposing party. Do we expect that the Warren Kampf campaign will likewise use signage touting registered democrat voter support? With the growing ‘Independent’ party affiliation among voters, is there signage claiming ‘Independent for Drucker’ or ‘Independent for Kampf’ on the horizon from either candidate?

Voter turnout was very low in the primary and historically Tredyffrin Township has not fared much differently in the general election (especially non-presidential election years). However, with the Governor’s race at stake this year, can we hope for a better than average turnout. Low voter turnouts make is easier for single-issue candidates and candidates with narrow but deep support make a good showing. If you are one of those folks, than you probably don’t want to tell the public when the election is. However, if you are a serious candidate with broad appeal than why not tell the public when to vote.

To inform the voters, and build interest in the fact that there’s an election date coming, why not some signs stating Election Day November 2 or at least on Tuesday, November 2, signs that say “Today’s the day”.

As a registered voter hoping for greater voter turnout, Election Day signage is something that I could support! I’d like to make a suggestion that the township as a public service could set-up those temporary sign boards to notify the public of the upcoming election.

Tredyffrin-Easttown School District’s Finance Committee . . . Notes from Ray Clarke

Last night’s TESD Finance Committee Meeting was important. We learned through the following notes of Ray Clarke that the district is facing as much as an $8.5 million funding gap for 2011-12. Much discussion on how to prepare for this looming budget gap . . . imposing an Earned Income Tax, increase in property taxes, educational program and staffing cuts? The meeting last night was the precursor to next week’s independent, public discussion of Earned Income Tax, what is it, how would it work, who will it affect – there is much misinformation on the subject of EIT and looking forward to the presentation of October 18.

I agree with Ray, wouldn’t we all like to know how our state house candidates would suggest funding the school district’s looming muli-million dollar funding gap? My guess is that Paul Drucker and Warren Kampf will remain mum on the subject . . . viewing that any ‘discussion’ of imposing an Earned Income Tax, an increase property taxes or cutting of programs would be the kiss of death 3 weeks before Election Day!

Here are Ray’s notes from last night – thank you Ray!

Update from last night’s TESD Finance Committee Meeting:

My own selection of highlights.

Next year’s $7 million gap looms large (this year seems under control). Expenses are pretty much locked in: contracted salary increases and no option to save costs through program changes unless through staff attrition. Administration is revisiting the strategies from last year, of course. On the Revenue side, there are a couple of built-in threats:

  • $1 million of investment earnings based on a 2% return when the current investments are earning less than 0.5%. Gap at least $0.5 million
  • $2.7 million of transfer taxes based on the rolling average formula, but the estimate for this year is $1 million less than that.

So, how to fill a gap that may be as high as $8.5 million? The Act 1 property tax increase is set at 1.4% ($1.2 million), and exceptions if approved would be roughly $1.6 million – a total property tax increase (unless a higher one was approved by voters) of 3.2%. Still $4 million short of today’s base projected expenses.

Key questions:

  • How much of the gap can be closed through another round of expense reductions? The administration believes that the well is running dry. A young teacher corps (no built in halving of salaries or program changes as older teachers retire), and items like supplies already cut back to 2008/9 levels.
  • Is an EIT an alternative on the revenue side? Bring back to T/E the $4 million (my guess) being paid to other townships? Maybe link that with a cap on property taxes?

There are many questions about the EIT, of course. Hopefully next Monday’s meeting (at Conestoga HS) will help answer them. The Finance Committee (rightly in my opinion) is designing this as an information session – with presentations about the tax, the financial impacts and the process – NOT an advocacy session. The place for that will be the Board Meeting the following week when the decision is made on whether to give non-binding notice to the Townships of the intention to put an EIT on next year’s ballot. Hopefully the process at the meeting will allow for questions of data clarification, but not opinions.

So if the EIT does get all the way to the ballot, the choices would get complicated. (That is hopefully what the session will explain). For example, voters may have to approve/reject a property tax increase of say 8%, approve/reject an EIT of say 1%, or if neither then we’ll get a property tax increase of 3.2% and withdrawal from the Fund Balance. As I have stated here before, I’m an advocate of the EIT solution (after rigorous examination of expense options), for many reasons.

For those who believe that these choices represent too little say on what is actually spent to educate our children, it was suggested that our state representatives have an important role to play.

  • Should a local district be able to adjust expenses to levels it can afford? How many state mandates are appropriate?
  • How can the pension problem be resolved?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice if Drucker and Kampf could debate these issues?
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