Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Pennsylvania State House 157

State Representative-Elect Warren Kampf Revisits His Campaign Promises

Warren Kampf confirmed his campaign platform of fiscal responsibility and promise to honor that commitment to the residents in a recent article in The Phoenix. Previously Kampf had publicly stated that he would not be taking the automatic cost-of-living (COLA) salary increase. However, we are now learning that Kampf plans to continue cost-cutting measures in various other ways. I was pleased to read that Kampf will not be taking the State’s allowed per diem but choosing instead to receive reimbursement for actual expenses. In my opinion, I cannot imagine reimbursing elected officials any other way!

( Last March, I wrote an article, “Pennsylvania Legislators can use Tax-Free Per Diem for Home Purchase . . . What about taxability issue or fraud possibilities?” To read the article, click here )

Kampf also states he will not be taking the state-assigned car and opting instead for actual mileage reimbursement. I am not sure how the cost differs between a state-assigned car vs. actual mileage expenses. On the surface, it would seem that turning in mileage expense would be cheaper but a source in Harrisburg suggested to me that it is actually cheaper for taxpayers if state representatives opt for use of a state car. Just an interesting aside, and I am not sure if the expense can be confirmed one way or the other.

As another form of fiscal responsibility, Kampf announced that he would not be taking the state’s defined-benefit pension plan and will work on the creation of a defined 401K-type plan for legislators and state employees. The state’s pension plan could certainly use reformdid you know that more than half the state’s municipal pension plans are less than 90 percent funded? Calculated as the ratio of assets to liabilities, 644 municipal pension plans are labeled as “distressed” by the state’s Public Employee Retirement Commission (PERC). Of those, 26 are less than 50 percent funded and branded as “severely distressed.”

In an effort to lead by example, Kampf is taking his cost-cutting campaign promises to Harrisburg. Elected officials struggle to understand the pain of their constituents (especially in such severe economic times) so I give Kampf credit for his personal cost-cutting decisions.

It is my understanding that Kampf will have a State Representative office in the Malvern Federal bank building in Paoli. With just days remaining before his Harrisburg swearing-in, he most assuredly has hired a chief of staff and other constituent service staff for his Paoli office. The broad scope of the 157 district will require experienced and knowledgeable staff; I am curious about his staff selection. The community will need contact information for constituent services – I will send him an email of inquiry on that subject and provide an update on Community Matters.

Supreme Court Ruling Expands Rights of Gun Owners . . . Will This be a Campaign Issue for Drucker & Kampf?

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling of 5-4 may ultimately make it easier for individuals to own handguns in the US. Those that follow Community Matters know of my naiveté on the subject of guns and gun control so, it has been with more than passing curiosity, that I was interested in yesterday’s high court decision.

I know that many people own guns in this country (but only recently realized how many gun owners are here in Tredyffrin). I was not surprised to read that the United States has the world’s highest civilian gun ownership rate in the world but when the statistic was converted to actual numbers . . . I admit to being suprised to learn that our 90 million Americans own an estimated 200 million guns! Another surprising discovery . . . Americans spend $10 billion annually on guns and supplies.

The ruling yesterday from the Supreme Court will extend the right that individual Americans have a constitutional right to own guns – to all cities and states for the first time. The decision to extend gun rights will be a setback for Chicago’s 29-year-old ban on handguns, which will now face legal review and will probably be overturned. The Supreme Court ruling is expected to cause legal challenges to existing laws restricting gun use in other states and cities. The right to bear arms, under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, previously applied only to federal laws and federal enclaves, like Washington D.C., where the court struck down a similar handgun ban in its 2008 ruling.

Chicago had defended its law as a reasonable exercise of local power to protect public safety. That law, and a similar handgun ban in suburban Oak Park, Illinois, were the nation’s most restrictive gun control measures. The Supreme Court believes that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the states and cities. The residents of Chicago have a fundamental right to bear arms under this ruling.

Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley was very troubled by the decision and responded to the high court’s ruling with, “”Common sense tells you we need fewer guns, not more guns,” Daley said.”When it comes to Chicago, the court has ignored all that has been done in the past decade to reduce the murder rate and violent crime.” Daley cited statistics detailing the nation’s level of gun violence: 100,000 people shot each year, eight people dying each day from gunshots, one million dead since 1968, the year Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.

Does this Supreme Court ruling have any specific meaning to us in Tredyffrin Township? Coincidentally, I did read that at the last commissioners meeting in Radnor Township, approval was granted to change the signs in their township parks to permit guns. Radnor actually cited Tredyffrin Township for already making the changes.

If we take our personal feelings about guns out of the discussion, do you believe that the states rights should be governed by the Supreme Court? Should the nation’s highest court determine the rights of the individual states and cities?

Looking at the Pennsylvania State House 157 race, do we know how State Representative Paul Drucker and his opponent, Warren Kampf feel about states rights on gun control? As lawyers, would they uphold the U.S. Constitution on gun control? If that is the case, could that be extended to other states rights vs. Constitution issues? For example, would Drucker and Kampf support and uphold the U.S. Constitution on the ‘women’s right to choose’ issue? Would Drucker and Kampf similarly consider a woman’s right to choose a Constitutional matter for the high courts and not a decision for the individual states? As Pennsylvania State House candidates, I certainly would appreciate hearing Drucker and Kampf opinions on the subject.

Countdown to May 18 Primary . . . Can we escape negative campaigning?

Days are beginning to countdown to the Pennsylvania Primary on May 18 and then on to Election Day on November 2. As the campaign season prepares to get in to full swing, I want to publically state my strong opposition to negative campaigning. Recalling my own experience in last year’s campaign cycle, I know all too well the personal effect of negative campaigning.

On a local level, based on past performance the potential exists for negative campaigning in the Pennsylvania State House 157 race. The Primary has Ken Buckwalter and Warren Kampf seeking the Republican nomination; and incumbent Paul Drucker as the endorsed Democrat candidate. I have had a conversation with two of the three candidates to express my concern that this campaign season not take us down the negative path.

I think that negative campaigning can backfire in local political elections. Poll after poll has shown that voters severely dislike negative campaigning. Ask almost anyone and they will agree: one of the most distasteful things about political campaigns is when a candidate decides to “go negative’ on an opponent. Often times it seems that the definition of “negative campaigning” really depends on which candidate you’re supporting. Many consultants and campaign managers like to call negative campaigning “comparing” or “contrasting” candidates by showing the voters the clear differences between their choices. If your candidate starts “comparing” himself with his opponent, then you’re more likely to look at it as completely acceptable. If, on the other hand, the opponent does the same with your candidate, then it becomes “negative campaigning.”

In our local election, where many of us may know the candidates personally, going strongly negative and personal in the campaign can end up costing you our respect, and ultimately our vote. Sending out a negative mailer about a candidate who everyone knows and thinks is a fairly nice guy probably isn’t going to make us change our opinion of him. It’s much more likely to get us angry at you, instead. I look at this way: if a candidate is severely flawed, then odds are that other people know plenty about his shortcomings. If, on the other hand, the candidate is a generally well-liked person with a clean record, then trying to convince his neighbors otherwise with a negative campaign is a losing battle. Let’s stick to the candidate’s actual voting record and history on issues. An opponent may claim to support a tax cut, for example, but his voting record may show a number of previous votes in favor of tax hikes . . . that would be fair game in a campaign. But personal attacks on an opponent’s private life, name-calling and mudslinging are unnecessary and not OK, and will likely not be favorably rewarded on Community Matters.

If you’re a candidate in a local election who is thinking about “going negative” on your opponent at some point during the campaign, I hope that you will reconsider. The stuff that really wins elections is called Hard Work . . . and if you’re really putting the necessary effort into running a great campaign, you won’t have time to waste on spreading rumors about your opponent, anyway.

Here is a preview of Ken Buckwalter’s campaign mailer for the State House 157, which is going out next week. Ken is taking the ‘high road’ with his campaign strategy, here’s hoping that the other two will follow suit.

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