Monday, December 10, 2007
Tony Branco 2d Friday preelection report
Tony Branco 30 day post election report
Peg Ferraro 2d Friday preelection report
Peg Ferraro 30 day post election report
District 1: (Bethlehem area) Ann McHale (D) v. Tom Dietrich (R)
Ann McHale 2d Friday preelection report
Ann McHale 30 day post election report
Tom Dietrich 2d Friday preelection report
Tom Dietrich 30 day post election report - no money spent
District 2: (Easton area) William Wallace (D) v. Mike Dowd (R)
William Wallace 2d Friday preelection report
William Wallace 30 day post election report
Mike Dowd 2d Friday preelection report
Mike Dowd 30 day post election report
District 3: (Nazareth area) Lamont McClure (D) v. Mark Schwartz (R) (no report)
Lamont McClure 2d Friday preelection report
Lamont McClure 30 day post election report
District 4: (Slate belt area) John Maher (D) v. Ron Angle (R)
John Maher 2d Friday preelection report
John Maher 30 day post election report
Ron Angle 2d Friday preelection report
Ron Angle 30 day post election report
Monday, November 12, 2007
The codes are already written. The main issue is enforcement. Our city needs more codes officers, and we need more active patrolling of the city. Not only by the codes officer but our city Police and public works. They drive the city as well. The cities employees need to work as a synergy in making Easton "clean and safe" to steal the "Badapple" and "House of Crayons" battle cries for better living.
There is no reason why Police can't report large piles of trash at the curb before trash day. And lets make sure all city departments know which part of the towns trash pick up falls on. These are more than a eyesore but a health hazard between possible arson, and god knows what else could be in them.
Also if you look up properties owners and see owners with multiple properties these need to be checked more often. The more properties one owns the harder it will be to keep up. And chances are if someone runs a bunch of rentals around this city they have a higher chance of tenets who don't care about the upkeep of the neighborhood or who are moving constantly.
I lived for well over a year and a half downtown in a Apartment building that had Asbestos in not only my bathroom, but right above the dryer in the laundry room most of the tenets use. We are allowing "Slum lords" to get away with shoddy conditions that violate codes galore. Again if the Fire Department has a call in a building and sees its against code there should be a form to file on the matter.
This "bureaucratic" tactic would create more communications and better enforcement of codes.
It has become fairly common practice to resolve problems of the moment by creating new legislation. Easton has a comprehensive set of ordinances already on the books. How can we more effectively enforce the laws/rules that already exist?
Nothing defines this better than the debacle that was a increase in parking meters. Again we need leaders who read whats on the books. Often some have cast votes and decisions without reading the matter. If I a 28 year old kid can find time to go to the clerks office or where ever need be to read a piece of legislation why not those who are "serving the community"? Reading the matter over is only part but a large one. Reactionary policy comes from uneducated persons on a matter.
The parking meter increase never did focus on the future it was just "what was good now". Again the matter of codes enforcement falls under the reactionary matter. We have a downtown and College hill that has a thriving night scene. While many who enjoy going to bars are fine folks. Many in a college town are out of decent hands.
We need some ordinances enforced more. These violations are not maybe the crime of centuries where the bat-signal needs to be turned on. Granted good people do stupid things. BUT public drunkenness and public urination goes on all the time. Yet the Police department seems invisible at the time these violations occur. Again more man power equals more enforcement like codes. I know many hate when I do this but to our north Stroudsburg has increased Police presence on Main Street and the area around it from 10PM till 3AM.
When the bars close there, the Stroud Regional Police are out of their cars on the sidewalks and alley corners. Public urination, and fighting has dropped and it also forced many more to seek sober drivers. Again that is a single idea many subjects could be spoken of. But considering we had a gang hit at Larry Holmes Ringside during that time a more concentrated police presence would deter many violations of our city.
The city’s 20 (or so) authorities, boards, and commissions significantly impact the progress and the quality of every facet of life in Easton. Because the authorities, boards, and commissions are sanctioned city government subdivisions, how can we better ensure that the nominated appointees are qualified and representative of the needs of taxpaying residents?
Honestly we need to allow the citizens the right of deciding. It is their lives these individuals effect directly. With the passing of the charter perhaps legislation can be made allowing for a citizen meeting where those who attend vote for or against first. Granted this would be flawed with many unable to attend but a No vote leaves the door open for a citizen led recall from that position.
It would be hard to have a "board" that decides other boards. The more we make things citizen involvement, the more we help to make more stake-holders in this fine city.
Failure to reinvest in the maintenance and upgrade of the city water plant was a key factor in the decision to relinquish responsibility and oversight of a significant municipal asset. How can we prevent losses of this magnitude in the future?
First and foremost hold the elected official who let this happen accountable. Again this was a direct result of reactionary policies. Not just handing over responsibility which was a total reaction to protect political capital in "saving taxpayers dollars". When water is a asset that should not be profit driven since we are a municipality NOT a business.
Plans and models with 5, 10, 15 and 25 year plans should be laid out and could be amended for the future. Also the water plants like our pools were victims of the city giving money to other projects that private funds should have been more involved in.
We need to stop acting like the City of Easton is a business, its not. Our utilities and services are more important than tax breaks and projects that benefit private for profit interest.
What is more key for our residents... providing the best service a city can, the most outstanding public safety, and the best infrastructure? Or what some Fat Cat with downtown business interest who doesn't care to reach into their own pocket to fund the deal?
For years the city’s annual budget was planned and discussed over a few weeks. Devise a 12 month budget development program.
Easy. Instead of having the position formerly known as City Treasure report maybe twice a year. In-place have the Director of Finance have a regular part of council between Comments from the public on Agenda items only and the council members committees reports. It would be quick and easy like taking a bandage off a hairy arm. The way we do budget sessions now a long cram session, thats as painful as yanking six feet of duct tape off that hairy arm.
Also aside from a cheap punch line. It would focus on a regular basis allowing more proactive discussion and not a summary of why we lost money for the year.
Give us an example of something you will do to make Easton’s government more open, accessible, and/or accountable.
Well considering at one time I use to record council to back up Mr. Hand (and two meetings were from my audio) I know the very first thing we need to do. Posting ALL city meetings audio from Council Chambers (not just City Council) digitally on MP3 on the cities website. Perhaps using Internet Archive sites. The relatively small expense to do this will back the city up for decades to come. Citizens could listen to audio at home.
I would like to also push legislation making the local cable suppliers agree to air on the local region City Council meetings on their access channels much like the FCC agreement to allow cable to operate as long as they provide a public service which gave us C-Span. Sadly federal deregulation may have made this a unlikely possibility.
But more than just clerk written summary of minutes needs to be posted.
I recommended the city STOP posting files for meeting minutes, agenda and such as Microsoft files but PDF's so Mac only users (like myself) can access them as well. This ways the city uses a neutral party and does not have to worry about change should the market tip to Mac's side and suddenly our files are readable to a lone few. (Considering we have a Apple Store in the valley now, it will only increase the number of Macs in the valley)
To the Clerks credit he almost instantly made major changes to PDF.
I think more city employees want to make it accessible, its getting the leaders to make it more so.
In recent years we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants resulting in a sizable stack of reports and critiques, while not resulting in any type of strategic plan. Propose a method to develop a strategic plan in more economical, more comprehensive, less fractured, and less consultant dependent way.
This will sound like a cheap answer since its short. Our leaders need to do their own homework more. Thats why they get a salary. It is basically just like someone buying answers for tests in school. Just a lazy way out of putting any effort into the job at OUR expense.
Economic development efforts have been focused on the city’s central business district for the past quarter century, while the residential neighborhoods have received less attention. Propose a residential neighborhood development program.
It is time to let the birds leave the nest. What I mean is if business is dependent on the "free market" in this post NAFTA WTO economy. Then they need to deal with the costs to operate more from their pockets. Many who want a hand receive relatively great treatment from the Fed in the form of taxes. I find it hard to imagine that Crayola who is a international company could not afford to fund the downtown more which was part of the bull we as a nation were fed with NAFTA and the free market. The Free Market is not pulling their share of the weight. Donations are weak from the corporate side to keep the community thriving.
The residents of the west ward are not in the "Free Market" we are citizens with needs. 30K would have been better spent repairing my back ally (1100 block of vine street) than benefitting already financially secured interest of Bank Street.
Our own head of public works Mr. Hopkins admitted my alley lacks good snow plowing due to its condition. The garbage company uses the alley to remove our trash. We need it properly plowed.
That is a more important example than a kick back for Fat Cats. Simply the Citizens need to stay the TOP concern of our leaders.
Collection of taxes and fees has been identified as a major financial issue in the city. Provide a few tactical solutions that would positively impact our collection deficiencies.
We need to prioritize in amount due. The Russell Russo days can not be repeated. Nor can we allow scofflaws to rack up tens of thousand of dollars in unpaid fines.
I also understand that our national economy is a joke these days. Open up the classifieds and see the lack of jobs more and more. I would rather have thousands in unpaid due from families with problems from unemployment, and corporate cut backs. The main problem is we have been going after the little guy and the big offenders who can pay but choose not to get by.
We did finally stop Mr. Russo but now we have a condemned house on Chidnesy that is loaded with trash is falling apart with busted basement windows so as to allow illegal activity to operate in there at night.
Again the mega slum lords who don't pay taxes and fees often are the same who don't correct codes violations. Again more synergy at the Alpha building with department directors would change this.
Also we should go after those who have numerous locations that have owed fees and taxes. Chances are they have the money but are too stingy to pay up.
Also we need to use eminent domain to obtain some of these properties not of merit. I do believe the "officer next door program" specifically uses this to make project houses available at a bargain price for City Police officers. That would make things better to making more members of the Police department stake holders by living in the place they protect.
Are you satisfied with the way city hall functions? What issues need to be addressed to improve interaction between departments?
Well the employees have always been very polite, friendly and professional I have ever dealt with. Now as far as Directors go. They report to the Mayor.
I would not shy down from riding the Mayor's behind about a director not doing a good job. But the Mayor is who controls them.
I would recommend every Tuesday a AM meeting with all department directors and the Mayor so perhaps problem properties and problem issues can be cross referenced as to draw red flags early. If one property has numerous code complaints the name could be checked by finance to see if the taxes were paid. Etc.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Tomorrow, We Can Tell Charlie Dent How We Feel About IraqCongressman Charlie Dent knows that the escalation in Iraq isn't working.
Congressman Dent admits there are "no good options" in Iraq.
Congressman Dent knows that this has been the bloodiest summer yet for American troops in Iraq.
So isn't it time for Charlie Dent to finally say "no" to George Bush? Let's tell him that.
In a recent meeting in his office, Dent told constituents that the so-called surge was like playing the children's game Whack-a-Mole, "where you subdue the insurgency in one place and it pops back up in another." He also said there are "no good options in Iraq."
He's right. So why does he keep voting with President Bush for more war in Iraq?
Tomorrow evening, Tuesday August 28 at 7 pm, I urge you to join your neighbors at Van Bittner Hall in Bethlehem to "Take A Stand" against the war and to urge Congressman Dent to break with President Bush.
All over the country Tuesday night, veterans, parents, students and neighbors will be gathering to tell Congress and the President that it is time to begin the withdrawal of our brave troops from the middle of a religious civil war.
Here at Van Bittner Hall, we will let Congressman Dent know:
that the death and injury toll for both Americans and Iraqis is rising, not falling, in the face of the escalation,
that the Iraqi "government" is in tatters and cannot unite the country,
that the so-called "Petraeus report" that he says he is waiting for is being written inside the White House, and won't be objective,
that we want him to stop voting with George Bush for "war without end," and
that we need to begin an orderly and safe drawdown and to bring our troops home to the hero's welcome and the lifelong support they have earned - we love our troops, and we want them home.
Please join your fellow citizens to urge an end to the war.
WHERE: Van Bittner Hall (Steelworkers Hall), 53 E. Lehigh Street, Bethlehem [Map]
WHEN: Tuesday, August 28th, 7 pm
I hope you will pass this e-mail on to your friends, and I look forward to seeing you there.Thank you so much.
Sam BennettBennett for Congress 2008PS - Please come and check out our brand-new website at http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=eaor5dcab.0.enihsacab.p9fhqacab.1298&ts=S0278&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bennett2008.com%2F. Let us know what you think.
Authorized by Bennett 2008, P.O. Box 9195, Allentown, PA 18105-9195, 610-770-3280, Jeanette Eichenwald, Treasurer. Donations to Bennett 2008 cannot exceed $2,300 per person for each of the primary and general elections, $4,600 in total. Contributions to Bennett 2008 are not tax deductible. We cannot accept contributions from corporations, unions, or foreign nationals who are not permanent residents. Federal law requires that we make our best efforts to gather and report the name, address, employer and occupation of anyone who contributes more than $200.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
William F. Hecht, PPL CEO, whose six year average salary was $4.08 million, before he retired.
Lee A. Butz, chief executive officer to Alvin H. Butz., Inc., the Lehigh Valley's biggest construction manager.
Jan Armfield, Regional President at Wachovia Bank.
Bert Daday, Special Assistant to the Prsident, PPL, Community Affairs.
Robert B Black, VP at Morris Black & Sons.
Michael J Caruso, Principal, Caruso Benefits Group.
L. Anderson Daub, Partner, Brown-Daub.
John T. Dickson, President & CEO, Agere Systems.
Timothy Fallon, TSF Consulting, LLC
Dr. Gregory C. Farrington, President, Lehigh University.
Jeffrey P. Feather, CEO, Sungard Pentamation, Inc.
Roderic R. Fink, President & CEO, ACME Cryogenics, Inc.
Steven R. Follett, President, CEO & Chairman, Follett Corporation.
Elmer D. Gates, Chair, Embassy Bank.
F. Mark Gumz, President & COO, Olympus America, Inc.
Christian Jepsen, President & COO, F.L. Smidth Inc.
John P. Jones, Chair, President & CEO, Air Products & Chemicals, Inc.
John F. Malloy, President & CEO, Victaulic Co. of America.
L. Susan Hunt, Publisher & CEO, Morning Call.
L. Charles Marcon, President, Duggan and Marcon Inc.
Richard Master, President, MCS Industries Inc.
Caroll H. Neubauer, Chairman & CEO, B. Braun Medical, Inc.
Arthur J. Rothkopf, President, Lafayette College.
Tony Salvaggio, President & CEO, Computer Aid, Inc.
Mark J. Schwab, President & CEO, Binney & Smith, Inc.
David N. Shaffer, co-chief executive officer, Just Born, Inc.
Kim W. Snyder, President, Eastern Industries, Inc.
Richard E. Thulin, Principal, Arcadia Properties, LLC.
Martin K. Till, President & Publisher, Express Times.
Paul Vikner, President & CEO, Mack Trucks, Inc.
Daniel C. Wells, Chairman & CEO, SWB&R.
Robert C. Wood, Chairman of the Board, The Wood Company.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
WHEREAS, Northampton County has many residents who served our country in its military service during the second world war, and who are struggling with incomes limited to veteran's benefits and social security; and
WHEREAS, those individuals who served in military service during the second world war made an important sacrifice, and the county wishes to recognize this sacrifice by easing the financial burden of second world war veterans whose sole source of income, aside from any veteran's benefits, is social security; and
WHEREAS, for those veterans who served for a period of four months or more between December 7, 1941 and August 15, 1945, whose sole source of income is veteran's benefits and social security, and who have either a homestead or farmstead designation for their property, the County is desirous of providing financial relief for the County's real estate taxes on those properties; and
WHEREAS, the time period for which WWII veterans whose income is limited to social security and veterans' benefits would be eligible for this relief will be the 2007 and the 2008 tax years; and
WHEREAS, this relief would be available for all eligible individuals in all branches of the service; and
WHEREAS, the available relief will be in the amount of the applicable County real estate taxes on the property owned by the eligible WWII veteran; and
WHEREAS, it is the intention of the County to set forth procedures for eligible WWII veterans to apply for this relief; and
WHEREAS, in order to implement this relief program for the 2007 budget, funds need to be appropriated to permit payment of the relief.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ENACTED AND ORDAINED BY THE NORTHAMPTON COUNTY COUNCIL, PENNSYLVANIA, THAT:
1. The foregoing Whereas clauses are incorporated herein as if set forth in their entirety.
2. This Ordinance shall be known as The Greatest Generation Grant - Veteran Tax Relief Program.
3. The Veteran Tax Relief Program as described herein is hereby approved for tax years 2007 and 2008. Eligible WWII veterans who own Homestead or Farmstead property in Northampton County, whether individually, or as tenants in common, or as joint tenants with a right of survivorship, or as tenants by the entireties, shall be entitled to apply for a relief payment in the amount of the County taxes for the applicable year.
4. The County Executive shall promulgate procedures in order to effectively administer and carry out the intent of this program. These procedures shall include instructions on how to apply for this relief, and those instructions shall be made available in the Assessment Office and on the County Website.
5. The sum of $100,000.00 shall be transferred from the 2007 Contingency Account $05000-76050 and appropriated to the appropriate section of the 2007 budget in a new line item titled, "Veteran Tax Relief Program," in order to provide for the effective administration of this program.
6. The County Executive shall distribute copies of this Ordinance to the proper offices and other personnel of Northampton County whose further action is required to achieve the purpose of this Ordinance.
7. Any Ordinance or any part of any ordinance conflicting with the provisions of this Ordinance are hereby repealed insofar as the same affects this Ordinance.
8. This Ordinance shall become effective thirty (30) days after the enactment of this Ordinance.
This Ordinance was advertised on the day of 2007, and was adopted by the Northampton County Council on the day of 2007.
Frank E. Flisser Wayne A. Grube
Clerk to Council County Council President
Monday, July 02, 2007
1) Plaintiff, RONALD L. ANGLE, is an adult individual who resides in Upper Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County (Box A, Portland, PA 18351), and is a Councilman of NORTHAMPTON COUNTY COUNCIL.
2) Defendant, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY COUNCIL, is the governing body of NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, consisting of nine elected Council members, and its offices are located at 669 Washington Street, Easton, PA 18042.
3) The Northampton County Home Rule Charter provides, in pertinent part, that county council is both the legislative body of Northampton County and that it also has the power to exercise all "residual powers" of the county. 348 Pa. Code Section 1.2-201.
4) Northampton County's contract with ACS for information technology expires at the end of this year.
5) The county administration established an information technology review committee to review vendor qualifications and make requests for proposals, pursuant to Administrative Code Section 13.09.
6) On May 17, 2007, proposals from three qualified vendors were submitted.
7) The request for proposals had asked for two proposals from each bidder - a "current situation" proposal, one matching current IT levels; and an "alternate situation" proposal, one for alternatives to our current levels.
8) The three "current situation" proposals are as follows: ACS - $10,002,873; CAI - $9,151,000; and CMC - $9,287,652.
9) The three "alternate situation" proposals are as follows: ACS - no proposal; CAI - $8,503,100; and CMC - $8,747,686.
10) There is a $1.5 million difference between CAI's low price and ACS' high price.
11) CAI failed formally to acknowledge two addendums to the request for proposal.
12) CMC neglected to sign its proposal.
13) ACS failed to provide an "alternate situation" monetary bid.
14) The Northampton County Solicitor advised the administration that the technical defects in the CAI and CMC bids required that they be rejected. He further instructed the administration it was unable to negotiation with ACS for a lower price.
15) Based on the advice of the Northampton County Solicitor, the administration could only consider one bid, the bid submitted by ACSD\, even though that bid is approximately $1.5 million higher than CAI's low bid.
16) As a result of this information, the county's information technology review committee recommended that the administration reject the bids and ask all three vendors to submit a second proposal.
17) All three vendors told Fiscal Affairs Director Vic Mazziotti that they were willing to submit new proposals.
18) Northampton County's Administrative Code, Section 13.14, provides that the county executive may reject bids or proposals that are not "in the best interests of the County," but requires that he obtain a resolution from county council authorizing that rejection.
19) On June 21, 2007, Defendant Northampton County Council was presented with a draft resolution to reject these bids because they were not "in the best interests of the County."
20) By a seven to one vote, Defendant Northampton County Council refused to reject these bids.
21) Defendant, Northampton County Council, in refusing to reject the aforesaid bids, abused its fiduciary duty to the taxpayers, as set forth in Heilig Brothers v. Kohler, 366 Pa, 72, 76 A.2d 613 (1950), for the following reasons:
a) It is forcing the county executive to award a contract that will unnecessarily cost taxpayers as much as $1.5 million more than the lowest bid, knowing full well that all three bidders are willing to submit new proposals;
b) It has ignored "the best interests of the County" by exalting fairness to bidders over taxpayer, in violation of the Administrative Code, Section 13.14.
c) It is forcing the county executive to award a contract that is not "most advantageous to the county," in violation of the Administrative Code, Section 13.09(g).
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff, RONALD L. ANGLE, demands that Defendant County Council be ORDERED to reject the aforesaid bids to remedy the breach of a fiduciary duty owed to taxpayers.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
IP Address 170.47.5.# (Senate of Pennsylvania)
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Glenn Kranzley's email: email@example.com
Lisa Boscola's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Kieklak,
In your own words, your comments at lehigh Valley Ramblings "crossed the line." In fact, they were sexist, misogynistic and vulgar. When these comments were brought to your attention, you initially refused to apologize. "What do I care?", were your words.
The apology you eventually made was to Congressman Dent and Congressional candidate Bennett. You make no effort to apologize to Look Out Lehigh Valley, the 23 year-old woman you most viciously defamed with sexist remarks.
The purpose of this letter is to ask that you do things. First, make arrangements to apologize personally to this young lady. You can make arrangements to contact her through Chris Casey, whose email address is email@example.com. Second, please resign your office immediately. That is the only way you can demonstrate sincerity.
Very truly yours,
Monday, April 16, 2007
WORK WELL IN PENNSYLVANIA
HARRISBURG – Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés today issued the following statement about the Commonwealth Court’s decision to not dismiss the case of Banfield v. Cortés, which is aimed to decertify the use of seven voting systems.
The court denied the commonwealth’s efforts to end the case on legal grounds.
“In a divided opinion, Commonwealth Court narrowly decided that there is a basis for proceeding further with the lawsuit. The court’s decision was not a final determination of the facts of the case,” Cortés said.
“Pennsylvanians should know that testing protocols and electoral procedures are in place to ensure fair, accurate and accessible elections,” he said. “The systems have worked well in the commonwealth, and some counties have used direct-recording electronic machines successfully for 15 to 20 years.”
The court’s 4-3 ruling was made in a procedural matter in the early stages of the case.
On August 17, 2006, the Secretary of the Commonwealth was served with the initial legal action that seeks to prevent the use by 57 counties of direct recording electronic machines that allegedly do “not create a permanent record of each vote.” The action specifically asks the court to direct the secretary to decertify seven systems and to “declare that the use of various auditable and non-auditable voting systems in Pennsylvania violates the uniformity provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” The lawsuit claims the certification of the systems violates the Pennsylvania Election Code, as well as the Pennsylvania Constitution.
In response to this action, the commonwealth filed a preliminary objection asking the court to end the lawsuit because it failed to have any basis under existing law. The court’s decision on April 12 overruled those objections, allowing the case to move forward.
“No merits or facts were presented to the court regarding the issues of the case,” Cortés said. “Unless there are intervening court orders or other events in the coming months, the court will hear evidence, review the facts and make a determination. Until such time, the systems will remain certified.”
Before a voting system is certified for use in Pennsylvania, it undergoes a two-tier testing process. First, as a prerequisite to being certified by the department, an electronic voting system must be examined and approved by a federally recognized independent testing authority, which reviews both the hardware and software components of an electronic voting system to ensure that the voting system meets the applicable federal standards. The electronic voting system must then be examined by experts and approved by the Department of State prior to use anywhere in the commonwealth. The department reviewed 19 systems and certified 13 for use in Pennsylvania. In November’s general election, 11 systems were used, including seven direct recording electronic machines, three optical scan systems, and one hybrid.
In addition to the certification process, specific procedures are in place to ensure election system security. The systems are well secured and the counties have a specific chain of custody that designates authorized individuals to handle the machines. The department also makes sure that each county had back up procedures in place, if necessary.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
CITIZEN’S ADVISORY COMMITTEE
In conjunction with
Voter’s Registration Office
April 4, 2007 – 6:30 p.m.
The scheduled meeting of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee was held at 6:35 p.m. on April 4, 2007, in the County Council Meeting Room #307.
Chair Russ Shade welcomed everyone to this meeting.
Mr. Conklin gave the roll and the following members were present:
Jack Bradt Russ Shade Greta Browne (Late-7:00 p.m.)
Motion to approve minutes from February 28, 2007. Motion seconded. Motion carried.
Courtesy of the Floor
Will Power, currently running for Northampton County Council, gave praise to the Voter Registration Office.
Experiences with the Voter Registration Office were very positive.
Issues can be dealt with some different approaches in training, additional personnel, etc.
Summary of Surveys reviewed with Committee
Survey results will be sent to the Voter Registration Office.
Letter to PA Department of State
Sent to Henry A. Van Sickle, Commissioner. He replied with a description of the certification process. Basically, he said the machines were not certified going into the November General election. State afterwards examined the tapes and everything functioned as it should and the General election results were certified.
Will these machines satisfy the needs across the County? It will be monitored closely.
Difficulty with the machines due to the large ballot discussed. It takes time to change from Democrat to Republican causing some slowness. Processor upgrade is needed to resolve the issue will be in place for the November General election. This particular upgrade will necessitate required certification at the national and state levels; therefore due to time constraints the State DOS will not permit it to be in place for the Primary election.
This is the last public meeting of the Committee. The Committee will meet once or twice privately to assemble their list of recommendations and write a report for the County Executive.
Courtesy of the Floor
Large ballot issue discussed again.
Pay of poll workers should be addressed or schedule the staff accordingly to allow for dinner breaks, etc.
Suggestion for a greater oversight of wrongdoings instead of it being another candidate’s responsibility to identify the errors. Wrongdoings should be made public.
Suggestion for a document warning “what not to do”. Voter Registration information is sometimes used improperly and it should be exposed when it occurs.
The Green Party candidates and Green Party officials from last year did not receive surveys. It was an oversight and not done deliberately.
Optical Scanner was suggested as a means to address the paper trail issues.
Life expectancy of the new machines questioned.
John Stoffa thanked the committee for all its time and hard work.
Counties should work together in approaching the State.
Motion to adjourn, seconded, meeting adjourned at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
SUMMARY OF SURVEY RESULTS
Surveys were mailed out to three groups of individuals: Candidates, Poll Workers and Voters.
Sent out Returned % of Return
300 35 12%
700 285 41%
400 50 13%
1400 370 26%
1) Not all of the questions were answered on all surveys.
2) Some questions had more than one answer selected.
3) One survey question asked about an election that has not occurred yet.
4) Poll Workers were most responsive.
5) Many positive comments were received regarding all aspects of the process including Voter Registration office, the use of the machines, training, etc.
6) All comments are available for anyone who would like to read them, it consist of 49 pages, which is the reason for this summary.
7) Many people in all categories would have appreciated a self- address stamped envelope for returning the survey.
8) 55 of surveys were returned as undeliverable.
1) The overwhelming majority of candidates who responded were either running for Municipal Office (20) or for the School Board (11).
2) All candidates who had contact with Voter Registration in advance of the decision to run for office had either a totally positive (15) or a mostly positive (5) experience.
3) The process of obtaining forms from Voter Registration was totally positive (20), mostly positive (5) and somewhat negative (2) for the candidates.
4) About half the candidates (13) felt tabulations were available in a timely manner. Two felt they were not timely and another thirteen said it did not apply to them.
5) All comments except for two were quite complimentary of the Voter Registration office stating they are very professional, helpful, courteous and knowledgeable.
6) The two negative comments had to do with a candidate being told the incorrect number of signatures needed on a petition and the other was regarding not having forms ready to be picked up after being told they would be available.
7) Several suggestions were made including:
a. Additional copies of forms should be available
b. Use of the website for forms and or availability of candidate information
c. Condense and consolidate petition information but make it thorough and easy to understand.
d. Make voter list available
e. Extend the hours of operation for the Voter’s office prior to petition periods.
8) Other issues/concerns for the Citizens Action Committee include:
f. Committee should remain positive and focus on future elections.
g. Paper receipt of the vote cast
h. Make the process of challenging a petition easier.
i. Petition form could be clearer
j. Recognize mistake will happen and deal with them constructively as they arise.
k. One candidate was unable to get absentee ballots for his campaign.
l. All information made available to public as soon as possible.
m. Review and reject property tax increase.
n. Straight ticket screen changed.
9) Although some of the candidates summated their name and address, only one specifically requested to be contacted. (see attached)
1) The majority of voters rate level of confidence in Voter Registration as very good (16) or a good (23) experience with Voter Registration. Ten voters selected either good nor bad. No negative comments regarding the Voter Registration office.
2) Two Voters had difficulties with registering to vote.
3) Only 13 voters visited the Registration office in the Wolf Building. Three had neither a good nor bad experience and the remainder had either a very good (8) or a good (5) experience.
4) All the voters who visited the office felt the staff was welcoming, courteous, and helpful and all received the information they were seeking.
5) Twelve voters emailed or called the office and all were attended to promptly and received the information they requested except one. One stated he tried to arrange a class to visit and was responded to in a rather rude response about public access to the sample voting machine.
6) Rating their experience with Voter Registration, 14 were very good, 23 good and 8 were neither good nor bad, no bad experiences reported.
7) The problems the voters encountered were mostly with the machines and privacy issues. Two people had an issue with provisional ballots.
a. Was the vote cast recorded and counted correctly?
b. An individual seems to be "hovering" around voters looking at votes
c. Problem with write ins.
d. Didn’t like the suggestion to vote by party.
e. Form not available for one individual to vote, he was able to cast his vote.
8) Most reported their experience with using the new machines as either very good (16) or good (20). Seven people selected neither good nor bad and four people had a bad experience.
f. Would like to see paper trail.
g. Liked old machines better.
h. Concerns about hacking/inaccurate recording and counting of votes.
9) Most voters (30) are satisfied with the machines. Some (5) are not and some (14) are not sure.
10) Interestingly, 30 voters are satisfied with the machines but only 27 of them are confident their vote was recorded accurately. Two people do not think their vote was recorded properly and 16 voters are not sure.
11) General comments made by the voters include:
i. Upgrade the entire process to make it more appealing to individual to encourage voting.
j. Older children should be allow to accompany adults so they can learn the process
k. Why can vote in Spanish or English when you must pass a test to become a citizen and have the right to vote and the test is in English?
l. Some workers well trained, others were not well trained.
m. Should have included a self-address stamped envelope with the survey.
n. Inadequate parking at polling location, consider new location due to population growth of the area.
o. Stop tax hikes, no reassessment.
p. Make Election Day a holiday to make it easier for everyone to vote.
q. When are we going to move up PA’s primary?
r. What is the upside A?
1) The overall experience for poll workers was good (139). 96 were very good, 34 were neither good nor bad, 13 bad and one very bad.
2) Specific problems were in the following categories:
a. Voter Registration problems (66)
i. Voters not properly registered.
ii. Could not get assistance for long periods of time when needed.
iii. Decisions made without Voter Registration assistance since they were not accessible.
iv. Early morning and closing times were difficult to reach the office.
v. Add additional dedicated lines to Registration office
b. Machine problems (70)
i. Master machine not accepting USB from other machines.
ii. Old machines easier.
iii. Screens not clear to users
iv. Slow and tricky tabulation process
v. Machines not working/shutdowns/reboots
vi. Not enough machines
vii. Need additional training to handle specific problems
viii. Touch screen sensitivity
ix. Machines should be on legs not tables
x. Hoods over the machines break off.
xi. Machines attached too closely together and the cords cause obstructions for walking.
xii. Cable holding machines together broke.
c. Voter Registration not accessible (50)
d. Lack of Provisional Ballots (2)
e. Privacy concerns (34)
i. Voters would like a curtain around the machine
ii. Screen can be seen when assisting voters.
iii. Other votes could see who voters had selected.
iv. Middle machine had the least privacy
f. Voter not knowing how to use the machine (164)
i. Apprehension of voters
g. Straight ticket "suggestion" was highly opposed by voters who relayed their concerns to the poll workers.
i. Some voters accidentally voted straight ticket when they didn’t want to and it could not be fixed.
ii. Change location of straight party ticket – not on first screen
h. Location issues were prevalent.
i. Sites too small to accommodate number of voters.
ii. Parking and the use of handicap parking
iii. Voters showed up and the wrong polling place
iv. Maps should be made available
v. Motor Vehicle registration sending people to wrong location
vi. Voter not having registration card to verify location
vii. Listing of all voters should be available
viii. Site entrance from the road not clear
ix. People who were registered not in the book.
3) Some positive comments:
i. Knowledgeable staff working together
j. Voters responded well to new procedures after an explanation
k. Smooth, quick process with the new machines.
4) Misc. Comments:
l. Long wait to see the results.
m. Many people commented about this being a new process that takes time and experience for everyone to make it a smooth procedure.
n. People writing in "characters" for the write ins. (i.e. Mickey Mouse, etc.)
o. A practice machine should be available for voters while they are waiting.
p. Poll worker jobs should be spread out more evenly.
q. Voting should be by mail in only, like Oregon.
r. Absentee and write in votes take too long to count at the end of the day, maybe do it sooner?
s. Hours are too long and the pay is too little.
t. Had to wait in line a long time to turn in results at the Courthouse.
u. Not enough people working.
v. Voter books need updated with correct data.
w. Voter’s sign registration book in pencil, permanent ink should be used.
x. District with 2 congressional districts had no written instruction on how to account for both districts when tallying results.
y. One voter’s screen displayed "vote not cast" and was unable to cast another vote.
z. Paper trail needed, give vote receipt to voters.
5) Most (153) felt the tabulation process was mostly simple. 82 people said it was simple, 42 somewhat difficult and only 14 felt it was difficult.
aa. Voter Registration Office was difficult to contact.
bb. Master machine had problems tabulation and recognizing the USB stick.
cc. Absentee count was difficult and time consuming.
dd. Absentee should not be able to change their mind and come in and vote.
ee. Tabulation process difficult and takes too long.
ff. Not always clear how many and what kind of tapes go on each tally sheet.
gg. Instruction sheets not clear and concise.
hh. Count absentee ballots before closing would be helpful.
ii. Workers should be told of any errors so they can correct it next time.
6) Regarding training, 97 workers felt is was comprehensive, 157 pretty good, 20 somewhat sketchy and 9 felt it was difficult.
jj. Refresher course would be helpful.
kk. More hands-on training.
ll. Minimum of 2 sessions should be required.
mm. Pay is too little for the amount of work and the time required.
nn. Training room was a zerox copy room that was inadequate for proper training.
oo. Paperwork and procedures not covering the Judge of Elections training.
pp. Training not taken seriously, too cutesy.
qq. Explanation of what we are allowed to do to assist voters.
rr. Process of depositing correct forms into correct envelopes too cumbersome, should be done at the courthouse.
ss. Training staff should wear ties and look professional. Voting is a serious matter.
tt. Should have a duty list and job description for each worker.
uu. Spend more time on how to resolve problems.
vv. Too many poll workers chose not to go to the training offered and therefore were unprepared and not of much use to everyone else.
7) General Comments and Suggestions:
ww. Self addressed, stamped envelopes should have been included to increase the return rate.
xx. Try to encourage younger poll workers. It is difficult for the elderly to put in such long days
yy. A school principle made an inappropriate comment about the use of the school for voting is a danger and imposition. We should not be teaching this message to our children.
zz. Survey should be sent closer to the election while thoughts are still fresh.
aaa. Voting machines should be tested by a user to avoid problems.
bbb. For the May 2007 Primary, please make sure provisions are in order for Independents to vote on ballot questions (IE. Act I for property tax reduction to fund schools).
ccc. Would like to be contacted. (See attached survey for Info)
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Thanks Peter, and you know I always stay away from the intercene workings, political workings, of any organization, but I guess this is about my fourth or fifth time here at this luncheon, and I am shocked and dismayed that it appears that [the Philadelphia Daily News’] John Baer has been overthrown. [Audience laughter]
He’s sitting out in the audience looking very lonely and lacking in power and importance. [More laughter] And truth be told, the only reason that I accepted the invitation is because of this deep fear that I and all of my colleagues in elective office have of John. [laughter]
Well it’s a pleasure to be back and I know that all of you are going to have a lot of questions that will range on a whole number of issues, so I will try to be relatively brief, but the topic I wanted to talk to you about today is one that is extraordinarily important and one that the press in Pennsylvania has not only shown a great interest in, but has been a tremendous participant in achieving some real progress.
You know over the last year, year-and-a-half we have seen the reform movement come very far in Pennsylvania - certainly in the primary election of lat year and to some extent in the general election, certainly in some of the reforms that are aborning right now. The press has been a prime mover in all of that, and I want you to know how strongly I applaud your efforts in making these things happen, and in bringing some facts and circumstances to light that were an important precedent to making these things happen.
No better example was the long fight waged by the members of the media to get the records of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). Those records revealed what I thought was a shocking and dismaying pattern of abuse, a pattern of abuse that is in the process of being changed in part – and those changes will be official probably with this week’s board meeting – but, literally, those changes are the tip of the iceberg of what needs to be done. We have to, in fact, build an entirely new culture over in PHEAA.
Even in the articles -once the material was, once the court case was won and the materials rolled out – even in the articles, PHEAA spokesmen kept defending what was done because they tried to say, “We compete with all of these private agencies, and we’re a essentially a private agency, and we have to be if we’re going to compete.”
No they’re not. They never have been, never will be, and until they start thinking like a public agency and understand that their duty is first and foremost - not to themselves, not to the board members - but first and foremost to the students, the college students of Pennsylvania, and their families, no culture, no amount of changes will make a difference.
I still believe there is much, much work that has to be done at PHEAA, but I want to commend the press. With that long and hard battle, we would never have had the impetus to bring those changes about.
Now some of you may think that it’s odd to hear me praising the press, but I’ve always believed, because I can and have been hard on you in the past, but I always believed that the press has an important role to play in disseminating to the citizens what their government does.
My only beef, and it’s been a substantial one, is that the dissemination to the citizens about what government does comes in one mode: when government screws up the press properly and appropriately conveys that to the citizens, but it doesn’t convey good news, it doesn’t convey what the government is doing right.
You know I said during last year when we started achieving the highest rate, the number of employed people in Pennsylvania, in the history of the commonwealth. This happened month after month after month. This happened 18 of the last 19 months.
But when it first happened, we barely got an article on page three of the business section.
I said [back then] if we had achieved – or I guess achieved wouldn’t be the word – but if we had reached the lowest level of jobs in the commonwealth’s history, does anybody believe for a moment that that monthly report would have been on the third page of the business section? Not at all. It would have been headlined on the front page.
Take an issue not quite as important or widespread as economic development and growth: childhood obesity. It is an issue on which a lot of articles have been written and there’s tremendous amount of citizen interest - I get asked about it by citizens often as I go across the state. And nowhere has it been written or conveyed to the citizens that Pennsylvania is one of the three states that are used as a national model for the programs that both the Department of Education and the Department of Health have instituted to begin dealing with diet and exercise and things such as that.
That has not in any way been reported to the citizens.
The problem of childhood obesity is written about every other week by the press, but none of the good news about what the state has done has been conveyed by the press.
But, having said that, I still think this is a good occasion as we talk about the reform movement, to take a deep breath , to understand that the press in Pennsylvania has more than fulfilled its traditional role of letting the public know what goes on with the government. And it has been a tremendous plus.
I also want to congratulate some of my colleagues in the public sector for taking steps to deal with the problem of reform.
I want to congratulate new [House] Speaker Dennis O’Brien [R-Philadelphia] for the efforts he has put together with Rep. [Josh] Shapiro [D-Montgomery] and [Rep.David] Steil [R-Bucks], veteran reformers like [Rep.] Kathy Manderino [D-Philadelphia] and [Rep.] Curt Schroder [R-Chester], they have been focusing on reform and they [the House of Representatives] have adopted a package that, although not necessarily perfect, certainly has taken a lot of good steps and almost moved us light years from where we used to be.
I thank Sen. [Joe] Scarnati [R-Jefferson] and [Sen. Dominic] Pileggi [R-Delaware] in the Senate, Sen. [Robert] Mellow [D-Lackawanna] also deserves credit, for the reforms that they have taken and instituted [in the Senate].
These are important first steps, and it is always difficult to go down the road of reform because there are many oxen that are still being gored.
But legislative leaders have gotten the message, and, I think, are willing to take the bull by the horns and move forward.
What I am about to suggest today will be over the next year, maybe the next year-and-a-half, the true test of how committed we are to reform in Pennsylvania. Because I think reform is more than just about what you get paid. I think reform is about opening up the process to make government better, to give the citizens more input into governing itself, to produce a better product.
I think we need to make some legislative changes and some changes to our state constitution to get where we want to go, fully.
Again, that doesn’t diminish the work that the press has done, the work that political leaders, like the Speaker and the senators have done, these are all significant steps in the right direction. But if we’re going to get to where we need to go, we have to do much more.
It is good that both the House and the Senate have begun to do something that deals with our open records problem, but we need a strong open records law passed into law soon.
Let me begin by saying you all know that a 2002 report ranked our [Pennsylvania’s] Freedom of Information law forty-seventh out of the fifty states in the nation. The only two states that we outperformed – Alabama and South Dakota – each received a score of zero. So it’s clear we have some work to do.
In 2003, some improvements were put into place that ensured speedy access to records that were subject to Right-to-Know statutes, but obviously the key question still remains, is what is a reasonable definition of what records are subject to Right-to-Know and the breadth of government and quasi-government agencies required to comply with out Right-to-Know law.
Since taking office, since I took office, we have received more than 5,000 Right-to-Know requests. Due to the constraints of the current law, we’ve denied about 50 percent of those requests. Even though many of those denials were mandated by law, they denied reasonable public access, and in about 50 percent of the 50 percent that we denied, our agencies turned over records notwithstanding, not under the Freedom of Information Act or the open records act, but just because we thought it was an important and correct thing to do.
The administration has been for about four or five months working on a draft bill. We have submitted the draft bill. We actually received a draft bill from the Publishers Association. We looked at their draft bill, prepared out own, and our proposal, first and foremost, shifts the burden so that if an agency does not believe that a record can be released, it has the burden to document that it is not a public record, and the permissible framework for denial is substantially narrowed to matters of public security or personal safety.
It virtually opens up every governmental body and every quasi-governmental body to the jurisdiction and the mandates of the open records act. It creates an Office of Public Records advocate to create guidelines and hear appeals, to make written decisions and offer training to public officials and employees.
Last Friday we sent out invitations to 43 external organizations that would be directly or indirectly affected by out new law to review the draft of the law, to make proposals and suggestions and improvements to our draft. Working with these external stakeholders, it is our hope to have legislation to forward to the House and the Senate April of this year.
I think it is crucial that we have an open records law that clearly applies to everything we do. The PHEAA example is absolutely the most telling. For an agency to delay for well over a year-and-a-half the dissemination of records that involve spending the public’s money is absolutely unconscionable. We see what has happened those records got subject to the light of day. Reform and change happened at a breakneck pace.
I would, again, submit to you that the reform and change is scratching the surface - it is not nearly significant. The culture of PHEAA has to change. The attitude of PHEAA has to change. I think the hierarchy and the structure of PHEAA has to change.
But I have agreed with Sen. [Sena] Logan [D-Allegheny] and Rep. [William] Adolph [R-Delaware] to give them some time – not a long time – to see what changes they intend to bring about and what changes they intend to propose before I go forward and do anything else.
Next I think we need to change the way we select our judges, our appellate judges.
Pennsylvania is one of only six states that elects all of its judges in partisan political elections.
To make lawyers or judges from lower courts campaign for office, to make them raise money is an absurd procedure. First of all, in raising money, the only one’s interested in giving money to a judicial election are lawyers, who will appear before those judges, or businesses that happen to be the subject of a great deal of litigation. So virtually everyone who gives money in those races has some direct ax to grind, has some influence that they want to bring about, by contributing money to a judge’s campaign.
We go through the fiction of isolating judges by saying they’re not allowed to solicit money themselves, nor are they allowed to know who contributed money, or how much is contributed to their campaigns. Ludicrous. Don’t think for a moment that a judge doesn’t know. It is absolutely a system that couldn’t be designed worse.
My wife, Judge Rendell, will routinely, if asked by another party, will routinely disqualify herself if the litigant or the lawyers appearing before her have made substantial contributions to my campaign. If we did that in Pennsylvania, no matters would be heard. Literally. The appeals process would grind to a halt. It is ungodly what we do.
Are we taking away the citizens’ right to vote? You know whenever you poll this issue, the citizens are very, very guarded about losing their right to vote.
Well I remember when Good Judges Pennsylvania, the group that’s been trying to achieve merit selection for a long time, they hired a pollster to do exit polls, and in that election we were electing three Commonwealth Court judges, five Superior Court judges and two Supreme Court judges – it was an unusual confluence of events. They polled people within two minutes after they voted and they asked them to name any of the judges that they had voted for, any of the judges, including Supreme Court. Fifty-eight percent of the people could name one, 12 percent of the people could name two. And they had just cast nine votes … so there is no question that we need to go to a different system.
If you look at just what happened in this election, in this election that we haven’t even had our primary, there were two judges on the Democratic side that received “highly qualified” recommendations – Debra Todd from Allegheny County and Darnell Jones from Philadelphia. Darnell Jones happens to be a minority.
For the longest time, minority leaders said, “We don’t want merit selection because it’s going to take away the peoples’ right to vote.”
I said, “Hey, take a look at the members of our appellate courts, doesn’t seem you’re doing so hot with the right to vote.”
Darnell Jones was, despite the fact that I supported him, Darnell Jones was rejected by the Democratic State Committee. Rejected for a candidate that didn’t score nearly as highly qualified in the review process by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
It makes absolutely no sense the way we do it.
So I propose, and we will be submitting to the Legislature, the beginning of what will be, necessarily, be a change to our constitution. Our bill will establish a merit selection of judges for Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme courts. Our proposal will establish an appellate nomination commission made up of 14 members – 4 appointed by the governor, 4 appointed by the General Assembly and 6 members of the general public representing law school deans, business organizations, labor organizations, civic organizations, professional organizations and public safety organizations.
When any judicial vacancy in our appellate courts occurs, this independent commission will be responsible for submitting to the governor a list of nominees who have demonstrated integrity, judicial temperament professional competence and commitment to the community. They can submit to the governor a list of not greater than five, not less than two. Once the governor selects the nominee, the Senate will have 15 days to give the appointment a vote. If the Senate fails to act, the nomination will be final. If the Senate rejects three straight nominees coming from the governor’s selection from that list, then the commission will make its own final appointment to fill the vacancy.
This, of course, will need a constitutional amendment because it’s a basic change in the way we select our judges.
Next, we need to turn our attention to some of the structural changes we need in our political process.
Now the House reform caucus has taken a look at those, and they’re planning to examine campaign finance reforms, the size of the Legislature and redistricting.
We’re going to submit to them in a short period of time, our proposals on all three.
Let me start with campaign finance – we can make that change without amending our constitution. We can make that change just statutorily.
Now I grant that having me talk about campaign finance reform may sound a little odd to people.
In fact, when I was mayor of Philadelphia, Sens. [John] McCain [R-Arizona] and [Russ] Feingold [D-Wisconsin] came to Philadelphia to hold a press conference to generate public support for the McCain-Feingold [campaign finance] bill, and I went out and attended the press conference and endorsed the bill.
The Philadelphia Daily News the next day had an editorial that said, “Having Ed Rendell endorse campaign finance reform was like having Ali Baba come out and speak out against thievery.”
I actually thought that was a little harsh, but [Audience laughter] but if [former President] Richard Nixon could be the first person to bring [U.S.] diplomatic relations to communist China, then I can certainly be the governor that spearheads campaign finance reform.
We need it. There is far too much influence in the governmental process by people and organizations with large amounts of money.
My opponent and I in the last election raised $42 million. People didn’t give us that money solely because they liked us or believed in the ideology we stood for.
That’s far too much money to be expended in a public election.
We are only one of 13 states in the nation that fail to place any limits on campaign contributions.
I was just out in Arizona on Saturday – I went out on Friday night and came back Saturday night – and I spent a day with the Democratic Governors Association. The governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, runs in a state that limits, if you go the public route, you are limited to $5 contributions for governor, and there are public funds [for the candidates]. I don’t believe that those limitations – Massachusetts has a limit of $500 – I don’t believe that they make sense.
I believe we should have reasonable contribution limits, so out legislation that we’re going to submit to the Legislature places a $5,000 limit on contributions by individuals and political action committees (PACS) in races for governor, statewide offices and local elections for executive in the most expensive places to run – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
[We also propose] $2,000 limits on contributions by individuals and PACS for all other elections in the commonwealth, including General Assembly races.
Local governments would be free to enact more stringent limits than the ones we propose. They could not enact limits more generous than what we propose, but could enact more stringent limits.
One of the big problems with campaign finance reform is you have to get at the total number of dollars that can be contributed.
For example, in New Jersey, they had heralded reform in their gubernatorial elections, and no person, individual [or] corporation was allowed to contribute more than $3,700 in a governor’s race. But those same entities were allowed to contribute $25,000 to any county political organization – there are 23 counties in New Jersey – and over $85,000 to the state party organization. You could literally give, if you wanted to, close to $600,000 to help John Jones or Mary Smith become governor of New Jersey, even though your direct contribution to their campaign was limited to $3,700.
So to prevent that from happening in Pennsylvania, our legislation limits the total amount that any person or political action committee can contribute in a two-year campaign cycle to $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a PAC. This limit will apply to contributions to candidates, PACs and party committees. As a result, we will limit the impact of any one person or PAC to have a disproportionate impact on the total government.
Let me give you an example of how that works.
Let’s assume the PAC gives $5,000 to the gubernatorial candidate, and let’s say they give $5,000 to the lieutenant governor candidate. They can do that – let’s say they give the governor $5,000 in the primary [election], $5,000 in the general [election], give the lieutenant governor $5,000 in the primary. [That’s] $15,000, in that cycle where we elect a governor, a lieutenant governor and members of the Legislature. That would leave them $35,000, in $2,000 increments, that they could either give to members of the General Assembly or political committees like the Allegheny County Republican Committee or the Philadelphia Democratic State Committee.
All totaled, an individual can only give $25,000 in that cycle, or, if it’s a PAC, $50,000 in that cycle. Without those limits, the individual limit to campaigns are a fraud because they’re too many loophole that you can go around.
Our legislation will also close the loopholes that allow partnerships and shell organizations to make contributions that skirt the law.
It is my hope that this legislation would become effective after the 2008 election cycle. So the first state election that it will be relevant for is 2010.
Nothing is more important than to change the way we redistrict. Other states have begun that process.
We need to redistrict to get that same type of spirit and the same type of electoral contests in the law, and in actuality, that we had in the primary elections of 2006.
Despite the changes in the primary election, there were very few change in the fall of 2006 – despite the reform movement.
Between 1986 and 2006 – what till you hear these numbers – there were 2,508 House and Senate races. In [those two] decades, only 38 House seats and 7 Senate seats were lost to the challenger party – 2,508 and in those two decades only 38 House seats and 7 Senate seats were lost to the challenging party. That’s 1.8 percent of all seats changed party hands in 20 years – 1.8 percent. Folks, that’s unacceptable.
You know what the Legislature has done and both parties are to blame, and there’s no political gain here. What they’ve done here is protected each other.
Republicans wanted safe Republican seats. Democrats, instead of fighting that and saying, “No, let’s have more contests,” they decide they’d create safe Democratic seats.
When control was the other way around, the flip took place.
We simply cannot do that.
Redistricting should be based on what’s good for the public -what are good geographic limits. We shouldn’t have people in Montgomery County and people way up in northern Lehigh County in the same state senatorial district because they have different needs and different approaches to government. We should try to make the redistricting create districts that are as close as we can in their demographics, as close as we can in their financial status, so that the representative can represent a body of thinking that comes from the public themselves. We should end gerrymandering.
There’s a simple way to do this, and other states, as I said, three or four other states have already gone down these roads.
We need to make the decisions on drawing on the boundaries, we need to take it out of the hands of sitting legislators. Sitting legislators - and a number of them are tremendous people, and I don’t think they have gotten the credit, certainly didn’t get the credit for my first four years for the impressive legislative agenda that was put forth. I think you can make a case that Pennsylvania made more significant changes in economic stimulus, in environment, in education, in tax reform, in healthcare – we made more significant changes in the first four years than any state in the union during that four-year period, and I didn’t do it myself. We had a lot of strong legislative leaders who contributed to that process.
But we all know that self-preservation is the first and most important motivation in the Legislature.
So out proposal takes the state legislative redistricting and places it in the hands of an independent, non-partisan commission. The commission will be made up of nine members, none of whom hold elective office or serve as lobbyists, and where no political party constitutes the majority. This independent commission will create a redistricting plan based on sound representation, not politics. One member will be appointed by the governor, four members will be appointed, one each by the [General Assembly] caucus chairs, and four members appointed by the [Pennsylvania] Supreme Court. Of the four members appointed by the Supreme Court, one from each of the two major political parties, and then the two remaining members must come from non-partisan registrations and independents, or members of other political parties not Democrat or Republican. So no political party will have more than four out of the nine votes.
Neither the Legislature not the governor has the right to approve or reject the independent commission’s redistricting plan. Instead, the plan will be put forward for public comment, and after a public comment period, seven [commission] members have to approve the plan, and the plan can be changed by comments that are approved. Seven members vote to approve the plan, it is approved as final.
Next, shrinking the size of our Legislature – something that has to, in my judgment, be done.
Our Legislature is the second largest in the nation, with more members per capita than any of our peer states. Only New Hampshire has more legislators, and that state has a true part-time citizen assembly.
With the size of our General Assembly not only comes gridlock but also extraordinary costs to the taxpayers. Our General Assembly has an annual budget of $340 million. That’s $1.3 million each, for about 2003 House members and 50 senators, and nearly 3000 staff members - $340 million, $1.3 million each for every senator or House member. I don’t think our democracy would be harmed, by having fewer members.
I know there are concerns that if we reduce the size of Legislature that rural districts will not get proper representation. I believe if you do it on a good plan, do it concurrent with citizen redistricting, I think every element – rural-urban, suburban, big city, small city, mid-sized cities – all of their interests can be protected.
I propose – this also, of course, takes a constitutional amendment – I propose that we set up a commission, and that commission makes the recommendations on the appropriate size for shrinking the state House and the state Senate.
The commission will be made up of six legislators and five members of the public. I think it’s very, very important that the General Assembly itself have the majority stake in deciding this. They can hear from all of us, they can understand that we want this done, but I think it has to be done by themselves.
Once the commission deliberates and comes up with its recommendations, I hope the Legislature moves forward with the necessary constitutional amendment in time to ensure that when the 2010 redistricting is done and put to a vote, we have fewer House members and fewer senators.
I want all of these constitutional amendments, and I have one left to go, all of these constitutional amendments to be focused on, and to be carried out with, the 2010 redistricting. So all of them would impact the Legislature that takes its office in 2012.
Why? For a very simple reason: you can’t do redistricting and two years later reduce the size of the Legislature. That would create total chaos. If you were going to reduce the size of the Legislature, it has to be concurrent with redistricting.
And it has to be done concurrent with the last constitutional amendment that I am proposing, but I think, in many ways, the most important. This constitutional amendment is one that I never believed that I would be publicly in favor of: term limits for legislators.
When I served as mayor of Philadelphia, I didn’t believe in term limits for legislators. When I was elected governor of Pennsylvania, I didn’t believe in term limits for legislators. I believed that the public had the right to make those changes for themselves.
But when you think of the statistics - 1 percent [of] House and Senate seats changed in 20 years – it’s clear that the public doesn’t have the ability because of redistricting - it doesn’t have the ability to make those changes. Secondly, self preservation is too much of a motivating force here.
Now you can say the same thing about governors in their first terms, or legislators, and maybe that’s true. I believe that I took steps, including raising taxes, that we’re obviously not steps designed to appeal to necessarily the prevailing public opinion. I think I did things which created some political risk for me.
Nonetheless, I can’t stand here and tell you that when I did things, the political impact wasn’t a consideration that weighed on my mind. Anyone who tells you that it isn’t is lying to you, is lying to you.
Now I believe in my case, and the vast majority of things that we did, I fought back the tendency to let those political considerations outweigh good policy and good substance for the public. But if I stood here and told you that I never considered the political impact, I’d be lying to you.
Self-preservation is important, and it’s important to all people.
In my case, it was one term or two terms, because of the term limits. I said, and I think some of you will remember from the 2002 campaign, I said during the campaign that I would rather get things accomplished in four years, and take the political risks that would result in me not being re-elected, than to sit around as governor for eight years and do nothing other than appoint a few people to office and have people say “your excellency.”
I believe I lived up to that pledge in my first term, but I knew it was four years or eight years. It wasn’t 12 years or 16 years. I didn’t look down the road. I didn’t look at it as a career – it’s not a career. I think it is important to get back to citizen soldiers.
I think it’s the only way we’re going to have truly pure, honest and effective government.
Are there sacrifices in skill and expertise that we’re going to, that will be a natural consequence of term limits? Absolutely.
We can mitigate them, and our plan – I’ll roll it out in a second – does, in fact, mitigate those, to an extent, but we’ll lose some level of expertise. But we’ve got 3,000 staffers that we’re going to have to help out, right? [Audience laughter]
Our legislation calls … and let me go even further – there’s real anecdotal evidence about this. I don’t know how many of you, after the session in September  on guns [and crime in the House], how many of you read Tom Ferrick’s column in the [Philadelphia] Inquirer.
Tom Ferrick quoted a legislator, a veteran legislator, who said that everybody up here [in the state Capitol] knows that [a] one-gun-a-month limitation makes sense. Think about it. One handgun a month, you can only purchase one handgun a month. It stops straw purchasers. That individual who goes into a store in Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, in Wyoming County and buys 16 9mm Smith and Wesson automatic pistols. The gun owner knows, the state police know, local police know, the ATF knows. That person is buying 16 of the exact same pistol, handgun, to sell on the streets of the city. To sell to felons and juveniles who can’t buy guns legally. And yet we’re helpless to stop them.
I know the gun-rights folks say, “Well, put a tail on him.” You can’t put tails on people for three or four months. That person takes those guns, puts them in his house and sits on them for four months. Then [he] takes them to the streets of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and sells them for 300 percent of what it cost him to buy – 300 percent. And almost 42 percent of our crime guns are traceable to multiple purchases. When we go back and say to the multiple purchasers, “ Do you know that your gun was used in a homicide to kill Chris Crawford last night?” the original purchaser says, “Ah, geez I’m sorry.”
“Well how did that gun get into that 17-year-old’s hands?”
“Geez, I don’t know, it was stolen from my House.”
“Did you report it?”
“No, the police never do anything about burglaries.”
Well, we have to report the loss of a car - the loss or the theft of a car – but we don’t even have legislation to require us to report the loss or the theft of a gun. If we did, just that one change would make it so much easier to crack down on gun traffickers.
One-gun-a-month says you can’t buy 16 of the same handguns. You have to do it one gun a month. It only applies to handguns. It doesn’t apply to long guns. I t only applies to handguns, and it has no impact on the rights of lawful gun owners who want to use handguns to hunt or want to use handguns to protect themselves or their houses. If you’re single, you can buy 12 handguns a year. If you’re married, you can buy 24 handguns a year.
I remember giving this speech before the gun manufacturers, and their lobbyist raised his hand and said, “Well, what you say makes sense, but what if you want to give guns for Christmas presents?” [Audience laughter]
I said, “I’m not going to comment on the appropriateness of giving someone a handgun in the name of the Lord’s birthday, but we have an answer for that: gift certificates.” [More laughter] One gun a month.
So that law, obviously, should be passed. There is nobody who is sane and rational who would be against one gun a month.
The legislator told Tom Ferrick, “If we voted by a secret ballot, one-gun-a-month would pass by 3 to 1.”
Well we didn’t vote by secret ballot, and when one-gun-a-month went before the September session, it lost 3 to 1. Think about it. Think about it. Why did it lose?
Because our legislators are worried about the NRA [National Rifle Association] and other gun organizations that make the NRA look liberal. They’re worried about that. They’re worried about self-preservation.
Voting money for education. Our legislators know how important it is, but heaven forbid a vote for a tax increase. “I might lose.” It’s self-preservation.
No more self-preservation.
Let’s have legislators that go in there and know they’re going to serve –“Well it’s my fifth year, I’ll either be here for six or eight. What’s the big deal. Let me vote for what I believe is right.”
It’s about time. That’s the way the country was founded. Citizen soldiers.
Thomas Jefferson served as a delegate to the Virginia assembly for four years, and then he went home. He went home, back to his farm. That’s the way it was meant to be.
We wouldn’t be here facing the mess that we’re facing on pensions … do you know that by 2011, coincidentally the year I will no longer be governor, the state budget will increase by $1.1 billion just because of the pension vote we cast in 2000. The motivation for the pension vote in 2000 was not to help state employees. The motivation behind the pension vote of 2000 was to build up legislative pensions. It’s going to cost us $1.1 billion more in 2011’s budget than in 2010’s [budget], because that’s the way they [the Legislature] has it scheduled. That’s when the spike is going to occur.
I’m going to recommend to the Legislature that we take steps to flatten that out, but just think about that. We shouldn’t be worried about pensions. This shouldn’t be a career. This should be a venture by citizen soldiers who want to participate in their democracy. Period.
Can we mitigate against the lose of expertise? Sure we can.
We can’t repeat the mistakes that states like California made. The entire California Legislature turns over every eight years. That’s nuts.
We have to figure out a way, and there’s a way to do it, and that’s to stagger it. So that one-third of the Legislature turns over every two years.
I believe we must have term limits: eight years for representatives and eight years for senator. So if somebody really has the bug to serve, they can serve for eight years as a House members and then run for the Senate and serve for eight years as a senator. By the way, these are total caps. They are not consecutive. They are total caps. Just like the governor cannot run again for governor in Pennsylvania after serving two terms – can’t sit out a couple years and run again – legislators are limited to eight years for their lifetimes in the House and eight years in the Senate. As I said, the term limits will be phased in.
This requires a constitutional amendment and it should also be done for the 2012 election.
So for legislators who have served for more than eight years, they have another six years to contribute. Another six years to get done what they hoped they could get done. We’re not pulling the plug on people precipitously.
Let’s do all of these things: redistricting, smaller size of the Legislature, term limits. Let’s do them in a way that we can have the benefits of all of these things going forward for future generations in the year 2012.
I think it’s workable and it’s doable. I’m counting on the Legislature and the reform movement.
We have, as you know – and you talk about it all of the time – we have 50 new members [in the Legislature]. I’m seeing those 50 new members this afternoon in the [governor’s] residence to spell out these plans to them directly, because many of them ran on similar proposals.
It’s my hope that this reform movement, fueled by the press, that continues to press for change, and by a public that will hopefully be interested in these issues, that in the long term are so much more important than pay raise. If you have term limits, you’re not going to have pay-raise issues. You’re not going to have pension issues.
It’s my hope that the public and the press will keep the momentum going so we can get things done in the next year or year-and-a-half.
Now I’m looking at my good friend Fred Anton [chariman of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association], and Fred and I have been friends dating back to my time as [Philadelphia] district attorney. I met with Fred and his group back in 2006 at the beginning of the election cycle. I met with them because I believe in the governmental process. I didn’t think that any of them we’re going to support me. I met with them because I believe in talking with everybody. And truth be told, none of them did support me. But we met and we talked about a lot of these same issues, and Fred will recall that.
Fred’s group wanted the calling of a constitutional convention.
I believe there are dangers in calling a constitutional convention. We’ve looked at this, and I don’t think you can limit the scope of a constitutional convention. I think there are significant dangers and substantive harm that can occur to the commonwealth.
But notwithstanding that, if the Legislature will not take these changes and reforms to heart - if they will not move in the near future to make these reforms a reality – I think I and every other like-minded Pennsylvanian, who seeks to have reform become a reality, is going to have to consider the constitutional convention route.
I don’t think we need it. I think we can do all of this and have it in place by the 2012 election, and benefit generation after generation after generation of Pennsylvanians.
This is an effort, and I don’t want this to become the governor’s effort – it’s the reason why the commission on restructuring, the majority of the appointment are legislators themselves - because I don’t want this to be mine. I don’t want this to be politicized. I don’t want it to be Democrat or Republican. I don’t want it to be us against them. I don’t want it to be rural against urban.
I want it to be Pennsylvanians trying to improve the product of our government. That’s so important.
I think we did wonderful things the last four years. Wonderful things to change the quality of life of Pennsylvanians.
But we could do so much more, and do it in an atmosphere that is so much better, and we’ll be so much more likely to restore confidence of people in their government.
More confidence in the government, means more people will vote, more people will take part in the process.
We’ll have more people like the [Rep.] Josh Shapiros coming to the Legislature, just because it’s the thing to do, and not because it’s a career.
But, gee, wouldn’t it be great to spend eight years trying to change the laws of Pennsylvania and make them better? Absolutely.
You’d be getting idealists from all over. You’d have corporations saying to some of their best young managers, “Go out and run for the Legislature. Get out for four or six years and see what you can do and then come back to us.”
We’d have good people – good women and good men - coming and running for office, not burdened by having to raise tons of money - to go to lobbyists or political action committees to raise money – to be able to get out there and run in a system that rewards competence, ability and the courage of one’s own convictions.
Nothing is more important to future generations than the things that I have talked about today, and all of you have been talking about for a long while.
It’s something that ought to be done. We have to be resolute. We can’t flinch. We’ve got to go down that road, and go down that road with determination and focus.
Thank you all very, very much.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Please choose as many as apply
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