Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yet Another Late Scranton Audit

The Scranton Times reports that the forensic audit of Scranton’s books will be even later than expected. The subject of the audit is the Scranton Single Tax Office and the roughly $12 million dollars they were holding instead of giving it to the proper taxing bodies.

Democrat Ken McDowell, current Lackawanna County Controller, was the Scranton Tax Collector during the creation of this boondoggle. The current tax collector is Democrat Marilyn Vitali-Flynn and will be facing her first election in 2009.

During his previous campaign, McDowell blamed a new computer system for late returns and the perception of general malfeasance in the office. Apparently, that same new computer system is the cause of the current problem.

The Philadelphia-based accounting firm that is performing the audit seems unable to extract necessary information from the system to complete the audit. They are currently working out the problem but figure it will take until January of 2009 to complete the audit.

Democratic Mayor Chris Doherty and the Democratic Council passed a 2009 budget that included $5.5 million in revenue from this surplus in the tax office. The city is counting on tax anticipation notes (TANs) or loans against future tax revenue to feed the 2009 budget until the money arrives.

Many have questioned the ability of the city to predict the amount of money Scranton will receive since the audit is not complete. Maybe the administration knows more about the millions the tax office was holding that allowed them to predict the amount they were entitled to. Time will tell.

DA Contest in Wyoming County

The Wyoming County Press Examiner reports that current Republican District Attorney George Skumanick will have opposition from fellow Republican and Public Defender Deborah Albert-Heise.

Albert-Heise has run against Skumanick unsuccessfully in both 1993 and 1997.

Skumanick has been District Attorney since 1989.

Real Change in Luzerne County

Fellow blogger Gort42 has a great post about the Luzerne County Home Rule Petition Process. 2009 is the year to change the structure of Luzerne County Government. 4790 signatures are required to get the ballot measure placed on the May ballot.

You can visit the Luzerne County Home Rule website or click here to download a petition. This is a PDF file that has a duplex petition. If you do not have a machine that prints on both sides, print one side, flip the paper, and print on the other side.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Governor 2010

KYW Newsradio is breaking a story on the 2010 PA Governor’s race. Currently, the two major Republicans likely to seek the office are former US Attorney Pat Meehan and current PA Attorney General Tom Corbett. Corbett seems to be making some serious moves. KYW reports that Corbett has reached out to former Attorney General opponent Bruce Castor. Castor is the former Montgomery County DA and currently serves as Montgomery County Commissioner. Corbett has also reached out to Philadelphia City Council Member Frank Rizzo.

According to the article, Meehan is perceived as a South East moderate.

While political leanings certainly will play into the 2010 Primary Election, you cannot discount electability.

Corbett won statewide in the 2008 Elections for Pennsylvania Attorney General. This victory came to Corbett in the same year that Obama smoked John McCain in Pennsylvania. Obama defeated McCain by a 55% to 44% margin. Corbett bested Morganelli by 52% to 46%.

2008 was yet another bad year for Republicans. Many house seats were lost and all of the row office positions were lost with the exception of AG. The only state-wide win was Tom Corbett’s race.

In that race, Corbett proved that against the best Democratic operation Pennsylvania has seen in a very long time, he can still carry the day. Conversely, Corbett won with a poor operation on the part of John McCain driving Republican turnout. Odds are, the Obama operation will be resurrected for 2010. If any lessons were learned from 2008, the Republican operation will not be worse than it was in 2008.

That being said, it will be difficult to replicate the level of urgency that the Democrats created in the 2008 election. Turnout is never as high as it is in a presidential election year. If Corbett could beat that operation with Obama on the ticket, he should be able to do the same against the Democratic nominee (today, the most talked about Democrats for the position are PA Auditor General Jack Wagner and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato.) Republicans would be foolish to dismiss that kind of victory for a political newcomer.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2010 Census

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pennsylvania is likely to lose a Congressional seat. This has the implication of costing us an electoral vote (currently 21) in Presidential Elections.

Congressional representation is determined by the census. Constitutionally, we conduct a census every 10 years and reapportion representation according to population shifts. Basically, the tally is made and divided by the 435 seats in Congress. Pennsylvania also uses the census data to derive its State House and Senate districts.

In crafting a district’s lines, the State Senate must create a district that each has an equal number of residents and that the land be contiguous. Outside of that, the legislature can pretty much do as they please.

The 2000 census and subsequent district lines were cause for much debate and litigation. The new districts took several years to be implemented because of that.

When you look at the map of Congressional Districts, you will find that Pennsylvania’s 5th District is the largest by geography. This is a sparsely populated, mostly rural, mostly Republican district.

The Congressman representing the fifth district is also a freshman, first elected in 2008. No Congressman ever wants their district moved around much and will use their influence to try and keep things as usual. If any change is sought, it is usually to add members of their party to their district.

Beyond added opposition party members to their district, the biggest fear is likely an incumbent vs. incumbent matchup. This occurred with the last census between Republican Gerlach and Democrat Holden. Holden was successful.

Based on the fifth’s lack of seniority and geography that could be most easily split into other districts, my guess is that the fifth will be sacrificed to the 2010 census figures. The 3rd, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 17th districts could be lightly retooled to absorb the fifth. Every other district might have to be tweaked a little, but it would probably be relatively minor.

Because the party that controls the Senate in Pennsylvania will ultimately derive the plan, the redistricting normally favors that party. While the fifth is a Republican district, they could conceivably add Republicans to the aforementioned districts by combining through absorption of the fifth.

The only really significant pocket of Democrats in the fifth is found in State College. Republican Shuster (9th) would probably prefer Democrats be added to Democrat Murtha (12th) than his own district.

The variations of any redistricting plan are enormous. With Republican control of the Senate, I would wager that the plan will include increasing Republicans into districts that were casualties of the 2006 and 2008 Elections. This effort can be an end-run to try and recapture the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jack-Booted Animal Cops?

The Pocono Record ran a story detailing how the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Pennsylvania is running roughshod over the rights of everyday Pennsylvanians.

To be honest, I felt like I was reading the script to a mob movie when I read an account of horse owner Linda Jones-Newman’s dealings with the PSPCA. Apparently, an overzealous vet called the animal cops when he thought a horse should be put down and the owners refused to acquiesce. The PSPCA officer showed at their property, issued a warrant, and told them “This can end right now. If you give me all of your animals, this can end,” according to Newman. Apparently, the officer ordered the animal taken from its stable and assassinated in front of its owners. They then proceeded to seize all of the animals the Newman’s had as evidence. Some of that “evidence” was destroyed. For example, a miniature cow was killed by the PSPCA because it was dehydrated. I guess killing the animal was cheaper than some water and an IV to rehydrate the animal. After reading another article, about botched attempts to euthanize pets at PSPCA facilities, a bullet might have been more humane.

Worse, some of this intimidation is standard operating procedure. According to the story, PSPCA officers are trained to “intimidate people into giving up their animals.” There may also be a quota involved with animal seizures. According to PSPCA officer Tammy Kerr, her Christmas bonus was based on the number of animals she took from their owners.

According to another story in the Pocono Record, these same officers trained to intimidate people into surrendering animals will be armed in January. Personally, I have no problem with someone being armed. What should be cause for concern is the legislation sought by Democrat House Member James Siptroth of Pennsylvania’s 189th Legislative District. Representative Siptroth introduced a bill to grant these same officers civil immunity. In effect, this would free the officers from civil liability in cases involving damages brought by a person involved in an investigation. This would allow them to also enter private property without fear of civil litigation and allow them to “break down doors” according to the article. While it didn’t make the cut in 2008, Democrat Siptroth intends to reintroduce the legislation in 2009. When asked about fear that the law gives PSPCA officers carte blanche over the rights of private citizens, Siptroth is quoted as saying “If they are treating their animals properly, they have nothing to fear.” Siptroth predicts passage in 2009.

The charges against the Newman’s were dismissed after paying a $75 fine for a dirty living area for four of their dogs. The judge ordered their animals returned to them, that is, those that the PSPCA didn’t already kill. According to the Newman family, the animals were returned in worse condition than they left. The animals suffered from fleas, ear mites, and matted hair. One dog was returned in a urine soaked cage. Incidentally, had the Newman’s had their animals the condition that the PSPCA returned them in, they probably would have received additional charges.

The Newman’s might have been lucky. According to the article, 50% of the cats in a Venengo County case died while in the PSCPA’s “care” as “evidence.”

The Pocono Record received this answer from the PSCPA regarding their criticism. The Pocono Record also has a chart that lists the number of animals put to sleep versus adopted by the PSPCA.

Nanticoke To Increase Taxes?

According to the Times Leader, Congressman Paul Kanjorski’s hometown is in financial trouble. Nanticoke is facing a tax increase and more borrowing. The Democrat dominated Nanticoke City Council is facing major economic troubles as many other municipalities are. To cover their city until taxes begin rolling in, Council approved a $300,000 tax anticipation note loan at 3.51% interest. Council failed to pass a budget instead planning to meet again on December 29th to discuss the 2009 budget. State law requires budget passage by December 31st.

GOP Set for March 3rd

The Times Leader is reporting that the Republican State Committee has selected their nominee to fill the vacancy in the 29th Senatorial District. The selected nominee will be Republican State Representative David Argall.

The Democratic State Committee has still not announced their selection.

The Special Election will be held March 3rd, 2009. The district covers all of Schuylkill County and parts of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, and Northampton Counties.

Luzerne Job Cuts

The Times Leader has confirmed that 18 full-time AFSCME member jobs will face the axe on January 1st. Another 17 jobs have received a stay of execution because they are court system jobs.

The employees were not identified because the county will not notify them until Monday, 72 hours before Christmas.

The non-union and management positions to be dismissed have still not been revealed.

Lackawanna Row Office Elections 2009

The Scranton Times is talking about the 2009 Judge race in Lackawanna County. The candidates, are not. But, in their defense, the law prohibits them from talking about it until the year of the election.

The Democratic candidates mentioned are former School Director Mark Walsh (who ran in 2001 and lost), Assistant District Attorney Margaret Bisignani Moyle, P. Timothy Kelly, James Tierney, and Magistrate John Pesota. The Republicans mentioned are Assistant District Attorney Frank Castellano and Brian Cali.

The article also mentions the retention of Republican Judge Michael Barresse and Democrat Judge Terrence Nealon.

No word on a challenge to Republican District Attorney Andy Jarbola, Democrat Sheriff John Szymanski, Democrat Recorder of Deeds Evie Rafalko McNulty, and Democrat Register of Wills Linda Munley.

Outside of the retention election which should go fine for both Judges, Jarbola is the lone Republican incumbent on the ballot. Lackawanna County successfully defeated the incumbent Republican commissioners in 2007. In 2008, Lackawanna County was a very high performer for Barack Hussein Obama’s Presidential campaign. These facts could embolden the local Democratic Party to target Jarbola’s race.

Speaking of the Commissioner’s race of 2007, Evie Rafalko McNulty could be the only Democrat race to target in 2009. In 2007, McNulty’s dirty laundry was aired during the divisive Democratic Primary. At issue were defaulted debt and unpaid taxes. Beyond the primary battle, this situation also created the opening for numerous lawsuits in the campaign. Ultimately, McNulty failed to win the Primary Election.

Scranton Mayor's Race 2009

The Scranton Times ran a political analysis of the candidates considering a run for Mayor in Scranton. The candidates listed, all Democrats, are Scranton School Director Chris Phillips, Scranton City Council Member Janet Evans, former Scranton City Council Member Gary Dibileo, and Current Mayor Chris Doherty. As one should expect of the Republican Party in Lackawanna County and their Chairman “Free Pass” Paul Catalano, there is no mention of a Republican candidate nor will there likely be one.

Doherty has done much tertiary-goodness in the City of Scranton. The article touches on that, but then draws the focus to the signature issue that could prove difficult for Doherty, the economy. The article mentions, nearly in passing, Doherty’s proclivities to constantly borrow money to pay the city’s current expenses. It fails to mention that, as a councilman, Doherty frequently railed against the administration and their debt.

It also mention’s Doherty’s infamous 25% tax increase. What it fails to mention is that Doherty promised a tax cut. (even if he did forget.) As a councilman, Doherty also raised taxes. At the time he said he had no choice.

Another criticism that didn’t make the cut was aired during the 2005 campaign. Gary Dibileo stated in a debate that there was a crime problem in Scranton. Mayor Doherty essentially denied a crime problem in Scranton. His staff has also denied increases in crime. This issue is tied with one of the issues that did garner ink, the Doherty’s inability to find common ground with the City’s municipal unions (Fire & Police.) As a Councilman, Doherty voted against the previous pact with the City’s unions.

At the end of the day, quality of life issues are what get people elected. As stated, Doherty has made surface-level changes in the City of Scranton that will be noticed. He has opened a new park or two and improved Nay Aug. Voters don’t seem to care much about borrowing, but they do care about taxes. Doherty raised them, but he did so long ago enough that most might have forgotten. His opponent will likely attempt to remind them.

As far as labor contracts are concerned, those intimately involved in the labor movement will care. The majority is not involved in labor and thus, will not. They will care about crime. If Doherty’s opponent is able to link the crime problem with an understaffed, unhappy police department, they might be able to make it stick.

The final issue that wasn’t addressed that could be an issue is how long Doherty will remain in office. The Scranton Times has advanced the idea that Doherty has future aspirations. If his aim is to become the 11th District Congressman, that would mean he could run during his first year in his newly re-elected office and then leave after just one year. Typically, the President of Council would become Mayor, Council would select a replacement, and a special election would be held to both fill the mayor and appointed council positions. The question needs to be asked of the Mayor if he will pledge to serve his full term.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obama, Brady, and Firearms in PA

Gun owners in Pennsylvania are stocking up on new firearms in anticipation of the coronation of President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama.

If you believe Obama’s rhetoric, he has no intention of taking away the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Perhaps they are reacting out of unfounded fear. Or, perhaps they have actually checked Obama’s record on firearms.

The NRA’s take on Obama’s gun record can be found here.

Adding fuel to the fire, Obama was endorsed by the Brady Center, former known as Handgun Control Inc. Obviously, the Brady Center doesn’t exactly have a sterling record on the issue. In fact, as part of their endorsement, the Brady Center touted a renewal of the “assault weapon ban.”

The Brady Center drew local attention in Pennsylvania as they offered aid in a local suit involving a Lebanon County Mom’s revocation of her Concealed Carry Permit. The local Sheriff, Michael DeLeo, revoked the permit. Lebanon County Judge Robert Eby reinstated the permit by reversing the Sheriff’s decision.

The Brady Center offers legal assistance in cases involving firearms. That assistance has historically been to strip rights away from individuals, not defend the rights of lawful gun owners.

Time will tell if Obama will keep his word on the Second Amendment. The man hasn’t been sworn into office yet but if you look at one of his appointments, there seems to be cause for alarm.

Obama’s nomination of Eric Holder for Attorney General raised some eyebrows. Holder, as Attorney General, oversaw the pardons of both Marc Rich and FALN terrorists by the Clinton Administration. Rich is a billionaire that was running from 65 counts of tax evasion when he was pardoned. The 16 FALN terrorists that had their felony sentences commuted also occurred under Holder’s watch.

As far as Second Amendment concerns, Holder signed onto a brief reaffirming his belief that the Second Amendment confirmed no individual rights to firearm ownership and possession and that the Supreme Court should have upheld DC’s ban on firearm ownership.

With the probable retirement of at least a few Supreme Court Justices, let’s hope this nomination is not indicative of the selection process that will be used for the Supreme Court.

You can read more about Holder here.

Barletta's Budget

The Times Leader is reporting that Republican Mayor of Hazleton Lou Barletta will cancel raises for his administration, chase delinquent taxpayers, and institute health insurance co-pays for city workers to reduce Hazleton’s spending.

Barletta is also meeting with department heads to ask them to find the means to institute a 10% cut in their department budgets.

Monroe Democrats Hike Taxes 24%

According to the Pocono Record, the newly elected Democrat majority commissioners will usher in the first tax increase since 2002. The proposed budget not only includes the 24% tax hike but also creates new government jobs in the county.

Democrat Commissioners Suzanne McCool and Theresa Merli voted in favor of raising taxes increasing the size of Monroe County’s government. Republican Donna Asure voted against it. Asure cited unstable economic times and a lack of real effort on the part of the majority to work out a solution as reasons for the increase.

Dustup in the 29th

The Hazleton Standard Speaker is reporting that Dennis Baylor filed a suit on behalf of the “No-Party” political party so that they can avoid gathering signatures for the Special Election to fill the State Senate position vacated by the death of Senator Rhoads.

Baylor’s suit seeks a formal decision by the Department of State on the status of his political party and a stay to be placed on the Election if need be until the matter is decided.

By the most recent read of the law, Baylor would need signatures in the amount of 5% of the total vote cast in the last Senate Election for the seat in each of the counties it represents. For statewide office, he would need 2% of the votes cast in the last General Election top vote getter or 66,724 based on Auditor General Jack Wagner’s totals.

To make it on the ballot, Baylor would need 1,364 signatures by the January 13th deadline.

Christmas Presents from Luzerne County

The Times Leader is reporting that the Luzerne County Commissioners will have their 2009 budget finalized in the coming days.

Some highlights of the $130 million budget are predicted to include approximately 100 layoffs for January 1, about $19 million in new borrowing, and a tax increase.

Since the list of employees to lose their jobs will not be released until around the Christmas Holiday, many will only have an approximate week’s notice as to their employments standing.

Also predicted in the story is a lawsuit from the Luzerne County Courts. Some of the proposed cuts involved the court system. Judge Mark Ciavarella has basically stated in the past that if cuts are enacted, the judicial system will not be able to function. Judge Ciavarella had previously promised to file suit against the county if they sought the reduction in staffing. The TL seems to have been correct in their prediction.

You can read the full text of a preliminary injunction filed by the courts against Luzerne County here.

As we look forward to the 2009 Luzerne County Elections, Gort has a great archive worth checking out.

Meuser on Rebuilding GOP

Former PA-10 Congressional District Candidate Dan Meuser was interviewed by The Bulletin for a story on rebuilding the Republican Party in Pennsylvania.

Meuser talked about the need for the Republican Party to reach out to younger people and revamping the communication of their message without changing their core principles.

Meuser also addressed the McCain/Palin loss to Obama/Biden. Faulting McCain’s inability to convey Obama’s record to the electorate, Meuser said Obama was able to better communicate from a centrist perspective and win coveted votes.

Kanjorski Defends Gifts

The Citizen's Voice ran a story detailing lobbying activities and Congressman Paul Kanjorski. The question was raised as to whether or not it was inappropriate for Kanjorski to accept baseball tickets from Freddie Mac and not disclose that he received them.

In attendance at the game in question were Kanjorski, Jack Abramoff’s pal and disgraced former Congressman Robert Ney, Freddie Mac’s CEO, and four lobbyists.

Kanjorski defended the use of the tickets claiming that they fell below the $50 threshold for reporting.

Scranton Circumvents Audit Law

According to the Scranton Times, the 2007 Scranton City Audit will hopefully be completed before 2009. Originally, it was reported that the 2007 audit was the latest to be completed in recent history. The Scranton Times had to run a correction to clarify the tardiness of the audit.

The 2007 audit was not actually the latest audit in recent history. Scranton’s 2006 audit was as it was not actually received by the city until 2008. This continues Scranton’s trend of late audits and disregard for Scranton’s laws. The 2005 audit didn’t arrive until October of 2006.

The law in question is Section 313 of Scranton’s Home Rule Charter. The Charter requires the audit to be completed, submitted to council, and published in the newspaper no later than May 31 of the following year.

Scranton School District Increases Taxes Again

According to the Scranton Times, the Democrat-dominated Scranton School Board will raise taxes by nearly 6% for 2009. This comes on the heels of the School Board passing a $109+ million budget for 2009. The vote was unanimous.

On the brighter side, some will see a reduction in taxes. $4.3 million in gaming revenue will be used to provide some measure of property tax relief.

According to a district official, some 13,050 Scranton properties are eligible for the state’s homestead property relief tax exclusion.

According to another article in the Scranton Times, the 5.6% tax increase is a fraction under the 6.4% top rate allowed by state law.

The School District places much of the blame on the need for the increase on the new contract reached with the teachers’ union.

This marks the fourth tax increase in a row for the Scranton School District. (2008, 2007, 2006)

In 2005, while conducting candidate interviews with the Scranton Times, Director Frank Brazill ran with the priority of keeping taxes “as low as possible.” Director Todd Hartman stated that he ran to get “the best education for our children that money can buy” and to “watch over wasteful spending” and for “fairness for our taxpayers.” Director Brian Jeffers said his top priority as a school director would be the “implementation of the state’s tax relief program.” Director Robert Lesh ran to “continue fiscal responsibility.” All four School Directors are up for re-election in 2009. All are also Democrats.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Get a Life!

Fox News is covering a hot mic incident with Governor Ed Rendell. When talking about newly appointed Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano he said she was perfect for the position because she has no life.

The exact quote by Rendell was that Napolitano is “perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it."

He also went on to priase Governor Sarah Palin saying she has great political insticts.

Area School Districts Failing SATs

According to the Scranton Times, only two of our area 37 area schools have surpassed national averages on SAT scores and only seven of our area schools have beat the state average.

The State Average is 494 verbal, 501 math for a total average score of 995.
The National Average is 502 verbal, 515 math for a total average score of 1017.

The 2008 NEPA SAT Scores by School District, verbal average, math average, total score:

1. Wayne Highlands – 505-525-1029
2. Tunkhannock Area – 510-516-1026
3. Crestwood – 508-506-1014
4. Dallas – 500-509-1009
5. Abington Heights – 504-503-1007
6. Lake Lehman – 500-503-1007
7. Delaware Valley – 5-2-498-1000
8. Susquehanna Community – 497-497-994
9. Wallenpaupack Area – 489-504-993
10. North Pocono – 489-503-992
11. Elk Lake – 490-495-985
12. Montrose Area – 493-491-984
13. Riverside – 486-488-974
14. Stroudsburg Area – 493-479-972
15. Pittston Area – 469-595-963
16. Pleasant Valley – 476-487-962
17. Wyoming Valley West – 478-484-962
18. Wyoming Area – 476-582-958
19. Greater Nanticoke Area – 476-480-957
20. Northwest Area – 478-478-956
21. Lakeland – 481-473-954
22. Wilkes-Barre Area – 466-484-950
23. Mountain View – 490-460-950
24. Carbondale Area – 467-483-950
25. Dunmore – 474-473-947
26. Blue Ridge – 469-478-946
27. Scranton – 469-471-940
28. Valley View – 466-473-939
29. Forest City Regional – 469-468-937
30. Hazleton Area – 457-475-932
31. Hanover Area – 463-461-925
32. Lackawanna Trail – 482- 442-924
33. Pocono Mountain – 461-461-922
34. Old Forge – 455-465-920
35. East Stroudsburg Area – 461-458-919
36. Mid Valley – 457-457-914
37. Western Wayne – 455-454-909

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Scranton Group Blasts Boscov Bailout

According to the Times Leader, the Scranton-Lackawanna County Taxpayers’ Association is questioning aid Scranton has promised to Boscov’s Department Store and its owners.

Ozzie Quinn, president of the association, framed the loan as a bailout and suggested there may be some quid pro quo involved in the loan. He raises this because Al Boscov has made contributions to both Democrat Governor Ed Rendell and Democrat Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty.

Quinn also questioned the ethics of using taxpayer money to bailout a private business.

Election 2009, Luzerne Row Offices

According to Gort42, the Controller, Prothonotary, Register of Wills, and Jury Commissioners will be on the 2009 Luzerne County Ballot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dunmore Advances Swiss Cheese Budget

According to the Scranton Times, Dunmore’s Council, led by Democrats Melanie Naro and Jerry Hart and joined by Democrats Thomas Hennigan and Michael Cummings have advanced a budget with a $1 million deficit.

While passing the unbalanced budget, the same Democrat Council Members also passed a motion to borrow $1.2 million to close a budget hole for 2008.

It may seem odd to pass an unbalanced, deficit laden budget but Democrat Council Member Naro stated that only the final budget must be balanced, not the tentative budget. When discussing solutions to fix the problem, Naro is quoted as saying “no one has a solution.”

To cut costs, Dunmore is evaluating cutting services. Items mentioned were sidelining the cleanup week, adding a $25 fee for pickup of larger garbage items, charging residents to rent DPW dump trucks, and cutting the police budget by brining in more “reserve” police officers. The controversy related to the statements made by council members regarding the Senior’s Center seems to have removed their necks from the chopping block. It appears that council will no longer be seeking funds from the cash-strapped seniors.

2009 Scranton Election Update

In 2009, Democrat Mayor Chris Doherty; Democrat Tax Collector Flynn; Democrat Council Members Fanucci, Gatelli, and Evans; and Democrat School Board Directors Brazill, Hartman, Jeffers, and Lesh will be up for re-election in 2009.

According to the Scranton Times Democrat Chris Doherty will see re-election and may face a primary challenge from former opponent Democrat Gary DiBileo, current Democrat Council Member Janet Evans, or current Democrat School Director Chris Phillips.

For Council, Judy Gatelli has indicated that she will seek re-election, Sherry Nealon-Fanucci is not sure if she will seek re-election. Janet Evans is probably waiting to determine if she will seek the Mayor’s post. They face potential challenges from Democrat Tom Charles, Democrat Giovanni Piccolino, Democrat Pat Rogan, Republican Karen Bazzarri, and Republican and Party Chairman Paul Catalano.

Democrat Bill Courtright, re-elected in 2007, is entertaining the idea of running for Tax Collector against appointed Democrat Marilyn Vitali-Flynn.

No word on if the Republican Party will complete the council slate, have a mayoral candidate, challenge the tax collector, or seek any school director positions. If past history holds true, the answer will be no. Since assuming control of the party, Catalano has captained a ship with very few candidates.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Scarnati Calls for Lawmakers to Return Raises

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that Republican Senator and soon-to-be Lt. Governor Joe Scarnati has called on Pennsylvania lawmakers to give up their 2.8% cost of living salary increase.

Pennsylvania faces a looming $2 billion deficit under the leadership of Democrat Governor Ed Rendell.

The Democrat controlled house has been silent on the issue. There is no indication from Democrat Speaker Keith McCall or Democrat Majority Leader Todd Eachus as to whether or not they will join the call to reject the COLA pay raise as Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati has suggested.

Dunmore Senior Center Update

According to the Scranton Times, Dunmore Democrat Council member Melanie Naro is now asking the Senior Center to pay $1000 a month to use the facility. The Borough of Dunmore is facing a 2009 deficit in excess of $1 million.

A local resident has offered to pay the heating bill for several months for the senior center. Jeanne Hugenbruch, Executive Director of the Senior Center, stated that the funding requests are scaring seniors into thinking they will have to pay up. Hugenbruch also stated that the Senior Center’s budget barely breaks even annually and makes the inference that they would not be able to meet the demands of council.

Democrat Councilman Hart denied that they were asking each senior to pay but rather would like to see a per diem rate paid by the number of seniors using the facility or some other paradigm to exact funding from the senior center.

The only Dunmore Council Member that seems to be outraged by this is Paul Nardozzi. He is quoted as saying “it is a shame that is comes down to this…We should be taking care of seniors they took care of us growing up.”

Local Bailout Money

The Times Leader is reporting the cash-strapped municipalities of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton and the deficit laden state of Pennsylvania will work together on a bailout package to save Boscov’s Department Store.

The governmental bodies will assist in the form of loans with monies financed through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development program guaranteed with federal Community Development Block Grants.

The total price tag on the endeavor is $300 million with Scranton and Wilkes-Barre both loaning $3 million each. Pennsylvania will loan $35 million.

The Boscov family is also contributing $50 million in their own cash. Other municipalities that host Boscov’s Stores are also committed or in the process of attempting to secure funding as well.

According to Examiner.com the funding will be used so that Al Boscov and Edwin Lakin can purchase the assets of Boscov’s. There was talk of selling to Philadelphia-based Versa Capital Management earlier in the year. Talks were progressing but now they seem to have torpedoed that plan. Because of the change of plans, Versa may now be entitled to a $4 million breakup fee.

Sterns Launches Campaign Website

Republican Senate hopeful Gretchen Sterns has launched a website.

www.GretchenSterns.com

Senate Committee Rejects Blues Merger

The Morning Call reports that the Pennsylvania Senate Banking and Insurance Committee rejected, by a vote of 10-4, the merger of Independence Blue Cross and Highmark. The vote is non-binding. The committee asked that Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario block the merger because it would ultimately reduce competition among Pennsylvania’s healthcare insurance providers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Barletta Out?

PolitickerPA interviewed Mayor Lou Barletta about his political future. After his narrow loss in Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District, Barletta said that he hasn’t thought about whether he will give it another shot in 2010.

The PA-11 race was heralded as the best chance a Republican had to win a Democratic district. Barletta lost to the embattled incumbent by 4% despite independent polls suggesting Barletta would win.

Barletta attributed his loss largely to the Obama Election Day operation. He feels he wasn’t beaten by Kanjorski but by Obama’s efforts.

Barletta lost by 4% in the most Republican-hostile environment in modern history.

Barletta ultimately refused to rule out another run for higher office stating “I don’t think I’ve hurt myself at all politically in this campaign so I would not rule out in the future running for another office.

I doubt we have heard the last of Hazleton’s popular Mayor, Lou Barletta.

The Republican Senate

The Times Leader ran a story touting our State Senate on a national level. Pennsylvania is the only state in the union North of Virginia and East of Ohio to maintain a Republican-controlled State Senate. Of the 12 states that fit this criteria, a spirit of pragmatism and bipartisanship is cited as a major factor.

Bob Asher, RNC committeeman for the Keystone state, suggests that their should be a campaign school in Harrisburg to show other candidates how it is done.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Luzerne County Considers Charging Beneficiaries of Flood Protection

The Times Leader reports that the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority is considering a fee to be assessed for those homes which benefit from the county’s flood protection system.

The communities that would be subjected to the new fee would be Wilkes-Barre, Hanover Township, Plymouth, Kingston, Edwardsville, Swoyersville, Forty Fort, Pringle and Luzerne.

The fee, which would be around $41 per household, would be used to pay the annual million dollar levee maintenance bill as well as $11 towards the repayment of the loan to build the levee system.

Wilkes-Barre Activist Vindicated

The Times Leader reports that a federal jury awarded city fire house activist Denise Carey $67,000 in her federal civil rights case against Wilkes-Barre and its Democrat Mayor, Tom Leighton. At issue was whether or not Leighton retaliated against Carey for her work to keep open a firehouse on East Northampton Street. The jury, after deliberating for nearly four hours, ruled that the Mayor did retaliate against Carey by trying to have her pay attorneys fees in connection with her attempt to preserve the firehouse.

Wilkes-Barre city attorneys promised to appeal the decision.

House Republican Leadership

From Philly.com:

Minority leader: Rep. Sam Smith of Jefferson County.


Whip: Rep. Mike Turzai of Allegheny County.


Minority Appropriations Chairman: Rep. Mario J. Civera, Jr. of Delaware County.


Caucus chair: Rep. Sandra Major of Susquehanna County.


Policy Committee chair: Rep. Stan Saylor of York County.


Caucus administrator: Rep. Merle Phillips of Northumberland County.


Caucus secretary: Rep. Jerry Stern of Blair County.

House Democrat Leadership

From Philly.com:

Speaker-Designee: Rep. Keith McCall, 48, of Carbon County. The full House will vote on his nomination on Jan. 6.

Majority Leader: Rep. Todd Eachus, 46, of Luzerne County.

Whip: Rep. Bill DeWeese, 58, of Greene County.

Caucus chairman: Rep. Mark Cohen, 59, of Philadelphia.

Majority Appropriations committee chairman: Rep. Dwight Evans, 50, of Philadelphia.

Caucus secretary: Rep. Jennifer Mann, 39, of Lehigh County.

Policy Committee chairman: Rep. Mike Sturla¸ 52, of Lancaster County.

Caucus administrator: Rep. Ron Buxton, 60, Dauphin County.

Mellow in Hot Water

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story dealing with the controversy surrounding Democrat Senator Bob Mellow and his recent appointment to the board of Blue Cross of NEPA. Board members receive $25,000 annually plus up to $36,000 in bonuses. At issue, is whether the Senator’s board membership should preclude him from voting on measures like the proposed merger of Highmark Inc. and Independence Blue Cross.

The group, Rock the Capital, claimed to have filed an ethics complaint on WILK Radio Tuesday. Senator John Gordner, chairman of the ethics committee, could neither confirm nor deny that any such complaint has been received due to senate ethics rules.

PA-29 State Senate Update

Senator James Rhoads died prior to the 2008 General Election, but was re-elected to the post. Now, there must be a Special Election to fill the vacancy.

So far, the pool of candidates consist of Pottsville Attorney Gretchen Sterns and son-in-law of the late Senator Chris Hobbs on the Republican side. Schuylkill County Democrat State House Member David Argall has also officially declared his candidacy.

Some controversy has developed over the nomination process that the Republican Party is using to select their candidate. A letter has been circulated to petition those involved to use a lottery system to choose delegates that will ultimately nominate the candidate. It appears to be a fight between the grassroots workers and the party leaders. A copy of the letter can be found here.

City of Scranton Settles Demolition Suit

The Times Leader covered a settlement against the City of Scranton for wrongfully demolishing a Pine Brook neighborhood home. The home suffered a fire in 2004. The city, under Democrat Mayor Chris Doherty, notified the owner that the home must be repaired within 20 days or face demolition. Despite their warning, the city took no action to demolish the structure until 2006, apparently with no additional notice.

The crux of the case was whether or not the homeowner had a chance to appeal the decision to demolish the home. The court ruled that he did not and thus, was denied his rights of due process by the Doherty administration. The owner’s claim was for $283,000 but was settled for an undetermined amount.

Cash Strapped Dunmore Seeks to Raid Seniors, Leaves Them in the Cold

According to the Scranton Times, Dunmore Democrat Council Member Melanie Naro ordered the thermostat lowered below acceptable standards in the Dunmore Senior Center to save heating costs. Seniors were forced to wear winter jackets within the facility to keep warm. Naro coupled that with a request that the seniors begin paying their own way in the facility. Dunmore Democrat Councilman Jerry Hart stated that he found the “free ride” that the seniors enjoyed at the facility was “unacceptable.”

In an apparent attempt to dig the hole even deeper, Councilwoman Naro stated in another Scranton Times story that the seniors are setting a bad example to the youth of the community for seeking to use the facility for free.

Jeanne Hugenbruch, the senior center’s executive director, said that the Pennsylvania Department of Aging regulations require a thermostat to be set at 70 degrees in a senior facility. No word if any official action will be sought.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pennsylvania Blowing Marcellus Shale Opportunity?

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that Atlas Energy Resources LLC is pulling up stakes in Western Pennsylvania. This is not for lack of resources or investment. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale drilling. The cause seems to be Pennsylvania’s government.

The developers blame confusing and inconsistent drilling requirements and a slow permit process.

Environmentalists argue the new regulations are needed to preserve water quality. The state has hired more inspectors for wells and more geologists in DEP to keep up with the demand from the new use of water in the horizontal drilling process.

Barletta’s Stalker Exposed

According to the Times Leader, Kanjorski paid $10,000 to have a man follow Mayor Barletta and film his interactions with the public. According to the story, the videographer tried to mislead the Barletta campaign by signing up to volunteer on the campaign and asking for a campaign button under the false pretense that he supported Barletta’s campaign.

When asked for comment the cameraman referred questions to a spokesman for Paul Kanjorski’s campaign. Terry Madonna, professor of public affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, was also interviewed for the story. When asked about the attempt to infiltrate the Barletta campaign, Madonna said it “borders on sleazy.”

Card Check Legislation has a Friend in PA

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the AFL-CIO and other Employee Free Choice Act proponents have a friend in PA, Arlen Specter.

At stake is the ability of employees to cast a secret ballot in either the affirmative or the negative to unionize. Labor is pushing to remove the secrecy of the ballot. Businesses are pushing to keep the ballot secret for fear of bullying and retribution against employees who vote against unionization.

According to the story, labor now represents only less than 8% of private sector jobs and about 37% of public sector jobs. Many in labor see this as their last chance to reinvigorate the slipping labor movement.

Murphy Flips to Beat Shimkus

The Scranton Times ran a bit of analysis on the Murphy Shimkus rematch for the 113th in NEPA. Murphy ran against Shimkus in 2006 but was defeated. In 2006, both Murphy and Shimkus were perceived as friends of Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty. This time, Murphy flipped on many of his past positions including his support of Mayor Doherty to win the Election.

In the past, Murphy supported Doherty’s controversial recovery plan and was one of its greatest supporters. The recovery plan in question has been used to hold up union contracts within the city. Now, Murphy has not only taken himself out of the Doherty camp, but also pledged to work on Act 47 reform. Act 47 is the legislation that authorized the recovery plan.

The 113th Legislative District comprises several areas outlying areas as well as Scranton’s North and West Side neighborhoods as well as a portion of the Green Ridge section. Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and the majority of Scranton’s City Council are up for Election next year.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kanjorski Snubs NAACP

Kanjorski backs out of NAACP forum at last second
Kanjorski Spokesman says a Press Release Scared Incumbent Away

East Stroudsburg, PA -- The NAACP of Monroe County was set to host a forum featuring Congressman Paul Kanjorski and Mayor Lou Barletta. The event was set to begin at 7 p.m.

At 6:50 p.m., Joe Werner, Campaign Manager for Congressman Kanjorski, arrived on the campus of East Stroudsburg to inform the group the Paul Kanjorski would not be showing up for the debate.

The explanation Mr. Werner gave was that a press release issued earlier in the day intimidated the incumbent congressman and “he did want to come here and get beat up.”

Vince Galko, Campaign Manager for Lou Barletta, said, "What's the difference between Paul Kanjorski and the Cowardly Lion? Answer: the Cowardly Lion didn't funnel 10 million taxpayer dollars to his family's business.

"This is just another example of Paul Kanjorski's disrespect for the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. He takes the voters for granted and worse yet he takes their money for his cars and his gas, and to fund his family's bankrupt business. The congressman's actions speak for themselves.

"If Paul Kanjorski is afraid to face Lou Barletta and the NAACP, it is no wonder he can't stand up to his Wall Street donors or to any Washington special interests."

To verify the disgraceful actions of Paul Kanjorski with regards to his treatment of the NAACP forum, you can contact Ronnie Byrd, the Vice President of the Monroe County NAACP and the organizer of the event. He can be reached at 570-406-0249.

You can read more in the Pocono Record.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Poll shows Barletta increasing lead; Kanjorski’s negatives at all-time high

HAZLETON – The Lou Barletta for Congress campaign released results from a recent poll that shows Mayor Lou Barletta increasing his lead and Paul Kanjorski’s negatives reaching all-time highs while his re-elect numbers reach new depths.


The poll conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research (SPR) had a sample size of 400 likely voters and was conducted on Oct. 2, 2008.


The ballot match-up had Lou Barletta leading, 47 to 39. This is an increase over the 45-to-41 margin in the two previous polls conducted by SPR. The new poll also shows a decrease in the number of undecided voters.


Paul Kanjorski’s re-elect number has dropped to 32 percent. That’s down from his high of 39 percent in March, 37 percent in July, and 33 percent in September.


“This poll mirrors what we are experiencing around the district and is somewhat similar to the recent Franklin and Marshall College/Times Shamrock Newspapers poll. This type of news encourages our supporters and gives hope to the people of the 11th Congressional District. However, there is still plenty of work to do, and as long as Paul Kanjorski continues to take money from Wall Street and Washington, D.C., special interests by the barrelful, Lou Barletta will remain the underdog in this race,” said Vince Galko, campaign manager for Mayor Lou Barletta.


Mayor Barletta added, “This is great news for the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. The only poll that matters is the one taken on Election Day, and I will continue to work to earn every vote. This race has been hard-fought and I have been under attack from the first day announced my candidacy. The polls show that my opponent’s smear tactics are not working. Americans are looking for leaders to tackle our problems, not politicians who point fingers rather than take responsibility. ”

Senator Specter Endroses Lou Barletta

HAZLETON – This evening, in front of a packed room, at the Woodlands Inn in Luzerne County, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter endorsed Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta in his race for Congress in Pennsylvania's 11th District.
Sen. Specter said, “Lou Barletta has won the confidence of both parties and that's really quite an accomplishment.


“Lou is just the kind of a person you need to represent you in Washington. I am very proud to call him a friend and I am very much looking forward to having him join me on Capitol Hill.”
Mayor Barletta said, “I am honored to have Senator Specter's support. I look forward to working with him in Washington to solve the problems facing America.”


Earlier Monday, Mayor Barletta participated in Senator Specter's conference with healthcare professionals and citizens regarding the cancer cluster in Luzerne, Carbon and Schuylkill counties.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Polls and the Bailout

Roll Call has new polling data in PA-10. According to Momentum Analysis’s findings:

Carney – 50%
Hackett – 36%

Overall, 51% had a favorable impression of Carney while 24% had an unfavorable opinion of him. Among Republicans, 41% had a favorable opinion of him and 33% had an unfavorable opinion of him.

65% of respondents had heard of Hackett. 31% had a favorable opinion of him while 34% had an unfavorable opinion of him.

The poll was release on Oct 3 and was paid for by Carney.

An independent poll conducted by Lycoming College Polling Institute was conducted on September 21-25. If found that:

Carney – 46%
Hackett – 36%

Both the independent poll and the poll commissioned by Carney seem to have very similar results.

Based on the coverage of the bailout vote, it certainly is possible that Carney’s position could improve during that time frame simply because of his two votes against the bailout. We are basically looking at a 4% increase. Hackett has made his campaign almost entirely about wasteful spending and tried to paint Carney as a “porker.” Perhaps by voting against the bailout, Carney diffused Hackett’s mantra which always seems to involve the words “liberal” or “wasteful.” Many media outlets have stated that opposition from constituents was running very high. By voting against the bailout, Carney may have insulated himself from all things liberal and wasteful.

Some will certainly say that Carney’s vote was the product of the inside-baseball that occurs on these very sensitive votes. Each of the caucus leaders know about how many votes they will need to pass a measure. If the bill is a political hot potato and people are very emotional about it, they leaders may allow members in hostile races to cast a safe, politically expedient vote. It is obvious that many members in contested races voted no on the bailout. Perhaps more telling is a comparison of the voting behavior of a member and the amount of money they have received from the banking industry.

Foul Ball

Mandalay is finding things difficult in Lackawanna County according to the Scranton Times. The management company that operates the local Yankees affiliate is pushing back against certain authority members.

Mandalay’s representative claims that “rather than focus on the financial success that has been achieved over the last two seasons, some members of the stadium authority continue to engage in a pattern of conduct that is clearly contrary to the contract between us.”

Authority members are appointed by the Commissioners. Bringing the Yankees to Lackawanna County wasn’t enough to guarantee a second four year term for the Cordaro & Munchak administration. Losing the Yankees would almost certainly guarantee that the Washo & O’Brien administration would suffer the same fate.

Speak Freely!

Lackawanna County removes its censorship policy after repeated brow-beating by the Scranton Times. After taking office in 2008, the Commissioners O’Brien and Washo issued an edict that no member of their staff or employee of the County should speak to the media without their Press Secretary present.

Apparently, the commissioners came to the realization that their promises of transparency in government became a bit clouded by their edict.

Former majority Commissioners Munchak and Cordaro instituted a similar policy with their press office when they took control. They also received criticism from the local media for their efforts to control the message from the sixth floor.

Bailout Part 2

Paul Kanjorski appeared on PBS to discuss the “Bailout.” In it, Kanjorski made the shocking statement “I’ve been watching this disaster, if you will, unfold for probably two years now, and particularly since last August-not this immediate past August, but the August before that, when the subprime mortgage problem was created. And then we saw the deterioration that occurred in October when the auction market started to fail. And then we saw the infection spread throughout the financial system. Until now, when Secretary Paulson came up to the Hill eleven days ago and said we are now at the disaster state, I recognized he was right.” This from a high level member of the House Financial Services Committee, one of the committees that are charged with the responsibility to make sure situations like this never occur.

Contrast that with the must-see heated interview between Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and fellow banking committee member Barney Frank, Chairman of Kanjorski’s committee.




The NRCC has produced a commercial which uses footage from a hearing on Fannie and Freddie in which key Democrats defended the troubled institutions claiming that there was no crisis with either. You can see Paul Kanjorski at the hearing sitting next to Maxine Waters as the camera pans around to focus on her as she speaks.




Congressman Kanjorski voted for the $700 Billion measure. Congressman Carney voted against it. Both Lou Barletta and Chris Hackett have stated that they are against the bailout.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Presidential Update

McCain was stumping in Obama’s backyard of Chicago and raised $5 million in five hours according to CBS2 Chicago. Gallup Polling is reporting that McCain is now capturing the majority of Independent votes by a margin of 52% to 37%. Overall, Gallup is reporting a 5% edge over Obama nationwide. Nationwide polls are great for bloggers looking for something to write about but really it comes down to the states.

A new ABC poll shows McCain surging ahead of Obama with a 20% lead in North Carolina with 58% for McCain and 38% for Obama.

A new Rasmussen Poll has Obama edging out McCain with a 1% lead in Nevada.

A recent Strategic Vision poll has Obama ahead by 1% in Michigan.

Rasmussen also has McCain up by 7% in Ohio.

In Pennsylvania, Rasmussen has Obama up by 2%.

Finally, a new poll of Florida voters by Public Policy Polling has McCain up by 5%.

Michigan and Pennsylvania were Kerry/Edwards states in 2004. North Carolina, Nevada, Florida, and Ohio were all Bush/Cheney states.

Karl Rove’s map seems to be coming back to life for 2008.

Obama is losing some of his steam. The states that have McCain ahead are typically outside of the margin of error. Those which give Obama an edge are certainly within the margin of error which places them in the toss-up category.

Fannie, Freddie, and Pauley

According to the Mercury News, the Federal Government’s takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sent mortgage rates tumbling in California (one of the states that have been hardest hit by the housing credit-crisis.) This has caused a ray of hope for many folks seeking to finance or re-finance a home.

Reuters is reporting that Obama has stated that he is dismayed by the size of the bailout package for the failed quasi-governmental agencies. The Christian Science Monitor reports that McCain also wanted to see the government step in to save Fannie and Freddie but sees this as a signal that some type of privatization should occur in these government/private hybrid agencies responsible for owning or guaranteeing $5 trillion in loans.

Questions still linger as to whether executives from Freddie and Fannie will garner windfall exit packages.

These governmental type companies do (surprise, surprise) have political wings. OpenSecrets.org has a story that details Congressman Paul Kanjorski’s dealings with the political wing of Fannie and Freddie. According to the story, Congressman Kanjorski has received $65,500 from these embattled mortgage company PACs, making him the single largest recipient in the House of their PAC dollars. There is a detailed list of top recipients of their PAC dollars in the story as well.

Kanjorski Vulnerable

According to the Politico, Paul Kanjorski is one of the few Democrats that will likely lose to a Republican. The Politico states that the issue in this race isn’t about the two major political parties but is more about the two men that are in the race.

Kanjorski has had repeated missteps during his more recent years in office and during this campaign season. Kanjorski had a very recent dustup on CBS over earmarks dealing with the Kanjorski Center, was exposed for being on both sides of the surge in Iraq, admitted that he and other democrats were less than honest when they said they would get us out of the Iraq war in 2006, and is still faced with questions over the earmarking of nearly $10,000,000 for the now infamous Cornerstone Technologies company owned by his family.

Barletta’s been keeping Kanjorski on the ropes. Time and again Barletta has seen favorable rankings from various news sources. This race has moved from the solid democrat category to that of a toss up in most people’s minds. Barletta has been picking off regular Kanjorski supporters, including picking up an endorsement from the National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition today in Scranton. If Barletta can keep this energy moving forward, odds are good that he could win.

Monday, September 8, 2008

New Race Rankings

In RealClearPolitics.com:, Reid Wilson and Kyle Trygstad have a story about the top 25 competitive congressional races in the country. NEPA’s two local races made the list.

The first number is the number 1-25 with 1 being most competitive.

Coming in as the 11th most competitive race in the Country, PA-11. They state “Pennsylvania 11 -- Kanjorski (D) -- Ethics issues, questionable earmarks and an unremarkable record, coupled with a near-celebrity opponent, put Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) atop national Republicans' target list. Kanjorski hasn't faced a real race in decades, and John McCain is likely to win the Scranton-based district, aiding Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta (R). It's one race in which the "change" mantra may benefit Republicans.”

And in the 16th position, PA-10 with “Pennsylvania 10 -- Carney (D): Rep. Christopher Carney represents a Northeast Pennsylvania district that gave President Bush 60% of the vote in 2004, and where Barack Obama did notably poorly in the state's April primary. That's not a recipe for success for a Democrat, especially one who won by challenging an incumbent with serious personal problems. Republicans are enthusiastic about businessman Chris Hackett (R), who won a competitive primary.”

Seems that NEPA will truly be a battleground this year.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Future of America?

NEPALibwatch has a post about the protests outside of the Democratic Convention. There are a bunch of photos and a short youtube video of Griff Jenkins of Fox News trying to interview some of the protesters. He asked them what their message was and if they believed in freedom of speech. Well, they certainly used those freedoms on the interview. Most of the folks were young people. Other highlights of the protest included Cindy Sheehan (amazingly minus a bullhorn) and disgraced former educator Ward Churchill.

The Republican Convention didn’t escape the wrath of the protesters. I found a good picture at the AP of the protests. The full story is here.

Dueling Polls

Carney Released a poll showing the following:

Clarks Summit, PA—A recent Momentum Analysis poll shows Congressman Carney to be safe from a challenge from businessman Chris Hackett. Carney is more popular than Hackett, and enjoys a 2-to-1 lead over Hackett in the horserace (54-27%).

A majority of voters (53%) view Congressman Carney favorably (either “very” or “somewhat” favorable), with only 18% viewing him unfavorably (either “very” or “somewhat”). Three times as many (21%) view him “very favorably” as “very unfavorably” (7%). And Carney is popular not just with Democrats (63% favorable, 8% unfavorable) but with Republicans as well (46% favorable, 27% unfavorable).

Roll Call released a poll showing the following:

In a head-to-head matchup with his Republican challenger, wealthy businessman Chris Hackett, Carney was supported by 49 percent compared with 45 percent for Hackett. The difference was within the poll’s 4-point margin of error.

The poll of 623 likely voters was taken exclusively for Roll Call Aug. 23-25 by SurveyUSA, an automated polling firm.

The rural district has long been a Republican stronghold, and Carney is the first Democrat to represent it since the Eisenhower administration. President Bush carried the district by 20 points in 2004, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) led Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) 50 percent to 41 percent in the Roll Call poll.

With Republicans outnumbering Democrats in the district, Carney’s slight edge in the poll was attributed to his support from independents and moderates. He had a 2-1 advantage among self-identified moderates and was preferred by independents by a 5-4 ratio.

Energy Update

API commissioned a poll about support for domestic drilling amongst our fellow Pennsylvanians. The survey found 63 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania support increased access to domestic oil and natural gas resources. If you’re interested, the full results of the state study and methodology can be found here. There is also a podcast about the survey at www.energytomorrow.org.

GOP Convention Update


Convention Effort Includes Comfort Care Package Distribution, Text Message Alert System, and Coordinated Fundraising for Charitable Organizations

SAINT PAUL, MN -- Today, the 2008 Republican National Convention launched the first day of its Hurricane Gustav Relief Effort. The effort includes the formation of a center where volunteers will assemble and send 80,000 "comfort packages," a text message alert system, and a comprehensive effort to encourage Americans to donate to charities identified by the five Gulf Coast governors. These efforts augment the steps that the convention announced yesterday, which included the formation of the Affected States Working Group and the establishment of an Affected States Information Center.
"We are deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of the residents of the Gulf States region. Senator McCain has asked us to put country first and shift our focus to assisting the Gulf State citizens, and we have coordinated a relief effort that answers his call to service. We are doing what Americans do best: helping our fellow citizens in need," said Rick Davis, campaign manager for McCain 2008.
Chairman of the Republican National Committee Robert M. "Mike" Duncan added, "The safety and well-being of the people of the Gulf States remains our top concern. Over the past 24 hours, we have moved quickly to mobilize people and resources to assist the Gulf States' residents -- both those who are in the region and our delegates in Saint Paul -- in any way we can."
Comfort Care Packages
The 2008 Republican National Convention has joined with Target, FedEx, and the Red Cross to send 80,000 "comfort packages" to the Gulf Coast region. The packages will be assembled at the Minneapolis Convention Center in a staging area being assembled today. The packages will have basic necessities donated by Target, including toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, granola bars, and other prepackaged foods. The donated materials will arrive in Saint Paul on Wednesday at 8 a.m., and FedEx will ship the packages to the appropriate locations.
The 2008 Republican National Convention is helping coordinate the volunteer effort. We expect 200 volunteers, which will be working in 75 minute shifts beginning on Wednesday.
Text Message Alert System
We have launched a text message alert system to inform delegates and alternates of program changes and other information as soon as it becomes available. The convention is in continuous communication with all delegates, speakers, and program participants. All parties understand that the schedule for the convention will be dictated by the conditions on the ground in the Gulf States and are, therefore, subject to change. The campaign and the convention's first priority is the safety and security of those living in the areas where the hurricane will make landfall.
Charitable Donations
The governors of the states affected by the hurricane recommended five charitable organizations that Americans can donate to if they wish to contribute to the relief efforts. The 2008 Republican National Convention is working to coordinate and encourage donations to these groups. In addition, the McCain 2008 campaign has set up a phone bank at the Hilton in Minneapolis, which will help coordinate donations to these groups. The five groups are as follows:
Louisiana: AidMatrix (http://www.aidmatrix.org/) AidMatrix is a leading aid organization that mobilizes more than $1.5 billion in aid annually, worldwide. The donated goods, money and services benefit the lives of more than 65 million people.
Mississippi: Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund (http://www.mississippirelief.com/) The Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund has been set up by Governor Haley Barbour to serve as the state's central clearinghouse for corporations, organizations and individuals to donate money, equipment, goods, services, volunteers and time to the hundreds of thousands of Mississippians who may be affected by Hurricane Gustav.
Alabama: Governor's Emergency Relief Fund (http://www.servealabama.gov/) In preparation for the possibility of Hurricane Gustav impacting Alabama, Governor Bob Riley and the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives are accepting offers of goods, volunteers and financial donations.
Texas: Texas Responds (http://www.texasresponds.org/) When activated by the State of Texas, Texas Responds serves as the state portal for non-cash donations such as goods and services.
Florida: Florida Disaster Fund (http://www.floridadisasterfund.org/) The mission of the Florida Disaster Recovery Fund is to raise funds to help Floridians recover from natural disasters by strengthening families and rebuilding communities.
The McCain 2008 campaign has also set up a web site, http://www.gop.com/news/www.causegreater.com, where Americans can go to learn more about these organizations. In addition, the 2008 Republican National Convention's official web site is now being updated to focus on the charitable efforts the convention is now engaged in.
Prayer ServiceA prayer service, hosted by Texas Governor Rick Perry and the Texas delegation, will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Central Presbyterian Church in Saint Paul. The service will be led by Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. The Texas delegation has invited all other Gulf State delegations to participate.
Today's announcement is an update to the efforts announced yesterday, which included the formation of the Affected States Working Group and the establishment of an Affected States Information Center. The working group is comprised of representatives from each of the states in Hurricane Gustav's path. It is led by all five state party chairs from the affected area along with other delegation officials. The group communicates twice a day and is actively working to ensure that all affected delegates have the information and assistance they need. The group regularly briefs their delegates and convention planners, provides access to timely information and assistance, and gives input on appropriate steps that can be taken from Minnesota.
In addition, the Affected States Information Center, housed in the Xcel Energy Center, is now up and running. The center will remain open during the Xcel Energy Center's operating hours and serves as a central location where delegates can get news about the hurricane, weather reports, and information about rescue relief organizations; access to computers and phones; and the resources they need to address their situations back home. There are also representatives in the center that can contact Gulf State governors, if needed.

Kanjorski Helping Doherty in Scranton

Congressman Kanjorski, Mayor Doherty to Help Open New Business:

The renovated ‘Colonnade’ to host $15 million celebration next Tuesday
Scranton, PA, August 29, 2008 – Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) and Scranton Mayor Christopher Doherty will help reopen the nearly 140-year-old White House mansion on Jefferson Avenue as Downtown Scranton’s newest business next Tuesday.
The new special events venue and catering facility, now known as The Colonnade and located at 401 Jefferson Avenue near the University of Scranton campus, is the product of an approximately two-year renovation overseen by owners Paul Blackledge and Joshua Mast. The two partners are also putting the finishing touches on six upstairs suites to provide overnight accommodations for guests.

Tuesday’s opening will also mark a major milestone in a small business financing program created by Congressman Kanjorski, known as the Banking On Business program. Banking On Business, which helped finance the renovation of the White House mansion, has now committed $15 million in funding for new and expanding small businesses across northeastern Pennsylvania.

The twin celebration will take place Tuesday, September 2, at 2 p.m. on the front lawn of The Colonnade, 401 Jefferson Avenue (at the intersection of Jefferson and Mulberry) in Downtown Scranton. Congressman Kanjorski and Mayor Doherty will be joined by officials of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, US Small Business Administration, the Scranton Office of Economic Development and other advocates of community and economic development on this festive occasion.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Oil Oil Everywhere But Not a Drop to Pump

Congressman Chris Carney was called out this week over oil investments. The NRCC issued a press release that was critical of Carney for attacking the oil industry while profiting from that same industry. According to the NRCC, Carney owns between $30,000 and $100,000 in mutual funds whose top holdings are in oil companies.

The NRCC is likely driving this in conjunction with the current ruckus going on in the capital. The Democrats bailed without passing meaningful energy reform and that has the Republicans (and probably anyone still paying close to $4 a gallon) pretty mad. Refusing to leave the Capitol even after the Democrats ordered the cameras turned off and the press escorted away, the Republicans are still trying to hammer out a solution to our energy crisis.

The Republican plan includes alternate sources of energy, increased nuclear power, more domestic drilling, and authorizing that drilling now. The talking heads on both sides of the issue have been kicking this around for weeks. Those against it (mostly Democrats) say it will not have any real tangible influence on the price of oil for years to come. Those for domestic drilling (mostly Republicans) point out that when President Bush lifted the executive order banning offshore drilling, the price of oil reacted and went down. They also point out that had former President Clinton not banned drilling in ANWR, we would now be draining that oil and reaping that benefit some ten or so years later.

Another benefit, though not mentioned as often, could be on the oil futures. Those that speculate on the oil market basically drive the price of oil up by trading in oil commodities betting that they will be more expensive as time goes on. When it looks like it might be less expensive, the price per barrel retreats. If more domestic drilling were authorized, the market would react due to the increase in future supply and ultimately lower the price of oil.

The Democratic powers that be have been blocking discharge petitions to allow this type of legislation to come to a vote. Both sides of the argument should propose their own solutions, have the political courage of their convictions and allow the debate to continue and a vote to commence. A vacation should not be part of this equation. My guess is that they fear election year ads saying that they voted against drilling. Recent polls have indicated that the majority of the American people favor more drilling. It would be powerful ammunition to use against them and they know it. But, with single digit approval ratings, can it really get much worse?

Kanjorski, CBS, and FREE MONEY

Congressman Paul Kanjorski made the news again. This time, it was CBS. The story dealt with earmarks, specifically the nearly $6 million dollars in “FREE MONEY” for the Kanjorski Center in Nanticoke.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Barletta...Pennsylvania's Mayor

Hazleton Mayor and Congressional hopeful Lou Barletta was named Mayor of the Year by the Pennsylvania State Mayor’s Association this weekend.

In particular, the Association cited Barletta’s hands on approach to tackling the problem with illegal immigration as one of their major factors in bestowing the award on Barletta. The Times Leader has a great encapsulation of the story from the AP.

Sign Wars

A Massachusetts woman wrote in to the Susquehanna Independent about a rather dubious affair that occurred in her presence while attending the “We the People” Independence Day Parade in her hometown of Montrose. Apparently, the woman noticed Chris Carney supporters obscuring the view of Chris Hackett signs by placing Carney signs directly in front of them. She then goes on to say that the same sign-blockers then joined the procession in the parade sporting signs with “Pennsylvania Values” plastered on them.

The full letter can be found here. I am not sure that you necessarily lay this one on the lap of the Carney campaign. I am sure Congressman Carney didn’t instruct anyone to perform such ridiculously stupid behavior (least of all in front of people.) If however, these people were significant enough players to march in the parade, they should have known better. Either way, Carney might want to have a serious talk with his supporters about this type of behavior. If this kind of behavior is occurring already on the part of Carney supporters, I can only imagine what it will be like in October.

Latest Rasmussen on Congress

The latest Rasmussen Report shows that approval of Congress is at an all time low. According to the report, only 9% believe Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Only 12% believe Congress has passed legislation to improve life in our country. 72% believe most members of Congress are in it to further their political carriers while 14% believe members of Congress genuinely want to help people.

11th Gets Hotter!

Josh Krau Shaar wrote a story on Politico about PA-11. In it, Josh talks about the five House races he believes can be lost by Democrats. In particular, he cites a lack of connection between Kanjorski and his local elected officials. Basically, he is saying that Paul has not spent enough time with his constituents. He also cites his now infamous Ashley town hall meeting where he basically stated that Democrats oversold the idea of an Iraq withdrawal to simply win the 2006 Election. He also brings up the confrontation Kanjorski had with a blogger and a video camera. All of which are now widely circulated on youtube. He does however give an important caveat…money. Kanjorski is swimming in it. Kanjorski has over $2 million versus Barletta’s $322,000.

Something Josh didn’t delve into was the source of the candidate’s funding. Kanjorski is raking in major dollars from Washington-based groups and PACs. Barletta is primarily raising his money from individuals. Conventional wisdom holds that the Washington cash machine can produce far greater totals than individuals writing small dollar checks. The greater issue here in my mind is “Do those dollars actually hurt the candidate?”

There is a large segment of the voting population that is crying out for change. Congressional approval ratings are at an all-time low. If a push for change translates into an anti-incumbent backlash, this could be trouble for Kanjorski. Barletta might be able to paint Kanjorski with the Washington paintbrush if he ties his contributions to the “special interest groups” in Washington.

For example, some sources of Kanjorski’s money are currently catching their fair share of negative ink. Groups like Countrywide Financial’s PAC have contributed rather significant sums to Paul Kanjorski’s war chest. With the current lending crisis looming, Countrywide has been a major target of criticism. This long contribution history has been reported in national news outlets like the Wall Street Journal. Items like this could create a perfect storm for Barletta if he demonstrates to the electorate that he wants to change the way Washington does business while labeling Paul Kanjorski as part of the problem.

While discussing the topic of PA-11, I cannot forget to mention the non-partisan Cook Political Report’s recent release of their handicapping of the congressional races. To summarize, most races remained the same from the last time the report was issued. 28 seats showed movement. 27 showed movement in favor of the Democrats. 1 seat moved to a more favorable position for the Republican, that was Lou Barletta’s race in PA-11 against Paul Kanjorski.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Carney's Republicans

The Local Values blog is talking about Congressman Chris Carney’s launch of a Republicans for Carney committee. Local Values goes through the contribution history of some of these “republicans” that are supporting Chris Carney and details their participation in Democratic party politics. Specifically, they point out that some of the “republicans” in question have contributed to Obama, Ed Rendell, Bob Casey, and County Democratic Committees.

These opposing party committees are very common in elections. Usually, a candidate tries to find an otherwise loyal party person who hopefully is also a high profile opposing party person and win their support publicly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flag Day, June 14th

Tomorrow, June 14th, is Flag Day. A United States holiday created to commemorate the adoption of our Flag. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, issued a proclamation that created the June 14th date. In 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. Flag Day is not a national holiday. Pennsylvania however is the only state in the union to recognize it as a state holiday.

On June 22, 2005 Congress passed the Flag Protection Amendment (which basically protects the flag from desecration) with a vote of 286 to 130 and sent it to the Senate where it was expected to receive a large amount of support. Instead in June of 2006, the Senate shot down the amendment by one vote with a 66-34 margin.

According to Congresspedia, Republican Senator and Presidential candidate John McCain, voted in favor of the Flag Protection Amendment with both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voting against it.

The American Legion and many other Veterans organizations support legislation to protect the Flag from desecration.

USAToday carried an interesting editorial from Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democrat, in support of the Flag Amendment when it was to be considered by the Senate.

Congressman Paul Kanjorski will be on hand to present the 109th Field Artillery in Wilkes-Barre with a new, larger flag on Flag Day.




Lackawanna Reassessment Botched?

The Scranton Times is reporting that Luzerne County is not the only county with a potentially botched reassessment. Apparently, Lackawanna County’s tax records and maps are so unreliable (5,735 problems according to the article) that the new tax bills will not ship for years to come. The best scenario seems to be having the missing owner’s information found and updating the maps that don’t even show some properties by July 1 2009. The more likely scenario seems to be that the Commissioners might have it wrapped up by 2014.

The reassessment is not yet complete, with approximately 30% remaining. If the current problem rate continues, (out of 70,528 completed 5,735 have unresolved problems or 8%) Lackawanna County Commissioners can expect another 2400 problem properties.

More on Kanjorski

The hits just keep on coming. Congressman Paul Kanjorski has been caught with yet another Youtube misstep. This time, what I assume to be a blogger, asks Congressman Kanjorski if he would apologize to the troops for his statements at a town hall meeting that suggested that the Democrats and Paul Kanjorski “stretched the truth” on ending the war in Iraq. Incidentally, this is the same war that argueably has now benefited from the surge that Congressman Kanjorski was against but now claims to be in favor of.

Many large news sites have covered the recent flap including the Drudge Report. The Scranton Times has covered the newest video today as well as the AP.

Gort 42 even talks about rumors of the Democrats switching out Congressman Kanjorski for a different candidate entirely.





Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kanjorski Flips on Surge

Yet another Youtube video has surfaced on Congressman Paul Kanjorski. This time, Kanjorski is seen flipping and flopping like a fish on the surge. In 2007, Kanjorski spoke from the house floor discouraging President Bush’s “ill conceived” surge of troops in Iraq. Since it has proven a successful tactic, Kanjorski now takes credit for it. In a recent local newscast, Kanjorski claimed that the Democrats took public positions that forced the President to go into the surge mentality.

Paul Kanjorski is yet again talking out of both sides of his mouth. This Washington doublespeak is only going to bolster Lou Barletta’s chances of being the next Congressman from Pennsylvania’s 11th District.

I have heard rumors of a shake up in campaign staff. Perhaps this doublespeak is the result of a ship with no captain, perhaps not. In either case, Kanjorski’s advisors are not managing his public speaking very effectively.

Kanjorski Fallout Continues

Politickerpa called Democrat Congressman Kanjorski a loser this week over his recently discovered statements at a town hall meeting in which Kanjorski admitted to playing politics with the war in Iraq.

Kanjorski’s troubles don’t end there, Fox News is running a story tonight that tears the scab off of Kanjorski’s now infamous Cornerstone Technologies blunders. If you don’t remember, Kanjorski directed millions of federal tax dollars to a now bankrupt firm headed by his family. Allegations of Kanjorski being involved in the day to day operations of the firm surfaced. The bankrupt firm is still unable to locate missing equipment valued at over $100,000 that was the property of the Navy.