Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kanjorski on Ciavarella in 2006

Congressman Paul Kanjorski’s Remarks on Democrat Judge Ciavarella as read into the Congressional Record of the House of Representatives:

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Mr. KANJORSKI. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask you and my esteemed colleagues in the House of Representatives to pay tribute to Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., who is being honored by the Wilkes-Barre Friendly Sons of St. Patrick as their 2006 ‘‘Man of the Year.’’

A son of Mary Cunningham Ciavarella and the late Mark A. Ciavarella, Sr., Judge Ciavarella was born and raised in the East End section of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Following his graduation from St. Mary’s High School, he earned his Bachelor of Arts
degree with honors in history/government and pre-law from King’s College. While at King’s he attained membership in the Aquinas Honor Society.

He was awarded his Juris Doctorate degree from Duquesne University School of Law in 1975. While at Duquesne, he was inducted into the Order of Barristers, which is an organization that recognizes individuals who have attained outstanding achievement in appellate advocacy.

From 1975 until 1995, Judge Ciavarella maintained a private law practice in the City of
Wilkes-Barre. He was a partner in the law firm of Lowery, Ciavarella and Rogers. From 1976 until 1978, he served as solicitor for the City of Wilkes-Barre and from 1978 until December 31, 1995 he served as solicitor for the Wilkes-Barre City Zoning Hearing Board.

In November of 1995, he was elected to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas and
in November 2005, he was retained by the voters of Luzerne County for another 10-year term.

Judge Ciavarella was formerly a member of Wilkes-Barre Police Civil Service Commission; the pastoral council and finance committee of St. Therese’s Church in Wilkes-Barre; Scranton Catholic Diocesan School Board; United Rehabilitation Services, Inc.; Wilkes-Barre Area School District Long Range Planning Committee; Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center Girls Co-Swim Coach and a member of the board of directors of the Luzerne County Association for Retarded Citizens. He also served as chairman of the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center’s Board of Directors and he was an assistant little league coach.

Judge Ciavarella is currently a member of the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center’s
Board of Directors and the Wilkes-Barre Chapter of UNICO. In addition to his duties handling criminal and civil judicial matters, he also serves as Luzerne County Juvenile Court Judge.

Judge Ciavarella is married to the former Cindy Baer. The couple has three children. Mr. Speaker, please join me in congratulating Judge Ciavarella on the occasion of this fine honor. Judge Ciavarella has served his community well both on the bench of the Luzerne County Court and in the many leadership roles he has undertaken with numerous civic organizations. The quality of life in the greater Wyoming Valley is made better due to the works of people like Judge Mark Ciavarella.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Death by (now) $1.1 Trillion Cuts

Despite his thorough and sometimes confrontational questioning of Eric Holder, Human Events is reporting that Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter is now supporting Holder’s nomination. Specter seemed to be leading the charge against Holder in his hearings…apparently, that was just for show.

In other news from the Hill, House Republican Leaders are urging their Republican counterparts to vote against the pork-laden Economic Stimulus (Economic Death by $1.1 Trillion Cuts) bill. This redistribution of wealth bill will ultimately place a heavy tax burden on our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

House Republicans proposed an alternative bill, 31 pages in length (versus the phone book sized Democratic bill.) We doubt the folks intending to pass this bill have even read it.

Democrats are pushing this bill, saying immediate action is needed or the economy will tank. Democrat President Barack Hussein Obama has stated that the bill should be “shovel ready” jobs insinuating that action would be taken immediately.

Enter the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO has analyzed the Democratic bill. Nearly 80% of the money in the bill will not see the economy until 2010 or after. To read more, you should see the Read the Stimulus website’s CBO section.

Our “leaders” on the Hill need to stop, take a breath, and work out a solution that doesn’t include pork. The current bill has had such gems as funding for birth control, STD prevention, more funding for cable box converters, and exorbitant multi-million dollar salaries for the folks that hold the purse strings.

To read more about the stimulus a.k.a. crap sandwich, check out the Wall Street Journal.

An alternative plan, do nothing…as actual economists recommend.

Lackawanna County to Consolidate Voting Districts…Again

Lackawanna County Commissioners are moving to consolidate voting districts in Lackawanna County. The process has thus fur been kept under wraps, presumably until they can get the process completed. Affected parties would then have ten days to appeal.

Word on the street is that the 11th Congressional District is the prime target of consolidation. All indications are that the major focus will be in eliminating voting locations in Scranton. Others on the chopping block, Dunmore, Old Forge, Olyphant, and Old Forge.

Developing…

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Such Class and Dignity

Obama supporters, not exactly working to"proclaim an end to the petty grievances"


Monday, January 19, 2009

Death by 1.2 Trillion Cuts

The Democrat-controlled Congress has released the first draft for the “Stimulus Plan.” This plan is nothing less than the death of our economy by 1.2 trillion cuts. We suggest visiting the website, ReadtheStimulus.org, to download a copy. They also host a discussion board where you can find interesting highlights or help parse the bill.

Some of those include:

Five members appointed by the President to serve on the board with a total compensation between the five of $14,000,000. That’s almost $3 million each! That cherry is found on page 23.

$1,000,000 will be pumped into the Community Planning and Development Fund. This is an obvious reward for failure based on the fact that this program is rated as “ineffective” by its own rating system. See page 228.

$50,000,000 is set aside for the Youthbuild program. The Youthbuild program also has the poor rating of “Not Performing” because it is redundant with other Federal programs. See page 132.

Some other gems in the bill are $400,000,000 for NASA to fight global warming and $650,000,000 for more digital television service coupons. The coupons were inserted despite the fact that 94% of the people that need these coupons have them already.

Still haven’t been able to locate the “middle class tax cut” that was promised. Word is that the will be in the form of $500 checks for individuals and $1000 for families like the previous failed program instituted by the Bush administration.

Hopefully, something more substantial will be used for this tax cut instead of replicating failure. This plan should focus on growth, not debt creation and rewarding past failures.

The OBAMETER is here!

The Saint Petersburg Times has launched a nifty little tracker called the Obameter. It tracks Obama’s promises (all 510 of them) during the campaign and how many he has delivered on.

At time of writing, Obama has kept two promises. Those being requiring taxpayers to report more detail on capital gains taxes and appoint at least one Republican to his cabinet.

The first promise on capital gains, was actually passed prior to his election, but they are giving it to him anyway. This one goes into effect in 2011.

The second promise on one Republican comes from a 60 Minutes interview. Obama was asked if there will be any Republicans in his administration, and he replied yes. When asked if there would be more than one, he refused to answer.

One of his promises is recorded under the stalled category. Obama promised to that, during 2009 and 2010, existing businesses would receive a $3000 tax credit for each additional full time employee hired. The Democrat controlled Congress has already put the kibosh on that measure.

It was proposed to be entered into the 2009 Stimulus (Death by 1.2 Trillion Cuts) Plan. When the bill came out of committee, the $3000 tax cut was not included. If it is not included by the time the bill is passed, it will fall into the broken promise category.

There is much more at the Obameter.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Richardson Mess Prompts Republicans to Fight Pay-to-Play in PA

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pennsylvania Republican delegation is poised to make eliminating pay-to-play politics in Pennsylvania. The Republicans propose to prevent political contributors from receiving state contracts.

The issue was reignited during the U.S. Attorney investigation into Democrat Governor and former Obama nominee Bill Richardson. Apparently, one of Richardson’s $100K contributors is also a very heavy Rendell contributor.

The Pennsylvania issue revolves around one of the principles in CDR Financial Products of Beverly Hills. David Rubin, CDR’s CEO, contributed $100,000 to Richardson and later won a $1,500,000 contract from Richardson’s state. Rubin also contributed $40,000 and was later awarded a $600,000 no-bid contract to act as an advisor to Pennsylvania’s House Finance Agency.

Democrat Governor Rendell has not been accused of wrongdoing and Rubin has vehemently denied any pay-to-play actions.

Democrat Rendell has stated through his spokesman that he only knew Rubin “tangentially.” Rendell however issued a statement in 2003 that “My intention is to recruit the best and brightest professionals to help develop recommendations for me new administration … we are very pleased to have Dave Rubin as part of our team.”

Allentown Republican Representative Douglas Reichley was very critical of Democrat Rendell’s contract awards. He is quoted as saying In the last six years, the pay-to-play mind-set that prevailed in Philadelphia under Mayor Rendell has migrated to Harrisburg to become the prevailing motto for the award of no-bid contracts worth millions of taxpayer dollars to friends and supporters of Gov. Rendell.”

Specifically mentioned by Reichley was Rendell’s award to his former law firm of an “emergency” $1 million contract to draft Pennsylvania’s transportation funding law a.k.a. Act 44.

Rendell’s staff responded in an equally pointed way suggesting that the insinuations were groundless and challenged Reichley to disclose the evidence of pay-to-play activities to the proper authorities or retract the allegations.

Luzerne Commissioners Now Support Home Rule Commission

Luzerne County Commissioners have changed their position on the issue of Home Rule in Luzerne County. The commissioners have decided to support a ballot measure for the May Primary.

In essence, the question will be placed on the May ballot, asking of another study commission should be formed. The measure will be advertised as an ordinance and voted on at their January 26th, meeting.

Eleven electors will be selected to act as the commission at the same time as the question is voted on. Should the question pass, the eleven will be placed on the commission.

Interested parties must pass petitions along the same guidelines as candidates for other offices. The window of opportunity for circulation is February 17 through March 10, 2009.

Scranton Finally Completes 2007 Audit

According to the Scranton Times, Scranton has finally completed its 2007 audit. The audit, due May 31, 2008 by Scranton’s Charter, is ten months late. The article failed to ask the very serious question, will Scranton’s 2008 audit be completed on time or will Scranton once again evade its own laws regarding the audit? This should be an issue considering that the Democratic Mayor and three of its Council Members are up for re-election in 2009.

The audit of Scranton’s books for 2007 found that Scranton had a surplus of $664,345. This can be attributed to Scranton’s 25% tax increase and selling delinquent debt.

The City’s long-term debt was $95,000,000.
Spending was increased $1,200,000 with revenue increasing $3,400,000.

Real Estate transfer fees were $388,863 higher than expected with permit fees $211,738 lower than expected. This suggests that real estate is being sold, but not improved.

Scranton’s total assets are registered at $309,600,000. When you look at its total liabilities, there is only a $52,400,000 difference. This suggests that Scranton is only $52 million away from being completely insolvent. If Scranton sold every asset it possesses and could secure its “appraised” value in this terrible market, it would only have a $52 million dollar surplus after paying its debts.

Scranton needs to complete its 2008 audit on time this year and sell its citizenry on a serious plan to pay off this debt. If a business were encumbered with this situation (a recent example would be Citigroup) we would be talking about who was going to buy City Hall and what they were going to do with it. This is incredibly irresponsible behavior on the part of city officials. The borrowing needs to stop immediately and Scranton needs to get its fiscal house in order.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Scranton's State Funding Pulled

In the same day that the Scranton Times ran a story about the City of Scranton seeking $3 million in state money, the Times Leader broke yet another troubling story about the City of Scranton and its Democratic administration. According to the story, Scranton has had its use of Department of Community and Economic Development money pulled due to its inability to complete timely audits.

We previously discussed Scranton’s inability to complete its audits with reference to the current pay raise debacle as well as its publicized delay of its most recent audit.

Apparently, the taxpayers of Scranton are not the only ones that have had enough with the late audits. Mentioned in the article are several large dollar projects that will have their funding held by the state until Scranton can complete the audits. The article also states that Scranton may experience delays in having the money made available even after the audits are submitted.

This is the most recent public exhibition of the utterly embarrassing lack of oversight that seems to permeate Scranton’s Democratic Government. Scranton’s mayor, three of its council members, four of its school directors, and its tax collector are all on up for re-election this year. All of the current officeholders up for election are Democrats. The remaining two council members, city controller, and five school directors will be up for re-election in 2011. All are Democrats with the exception of one School Director who is a Republican.

NEPA Legislative Agenda Dominated by Healthcare

The Times Leader reports that NEPA’s House and Senate delegation are all looking for solutions to the healthcare “crisis”.

Each legislator had a different proposal ranging from establishing government mandated healthcare a.k.a. universal healthcare to cost controls.

Healthcare is an issue that certainly is far reaching. It would be a great benefit to all citizens of the greatest country in the world to have cost effective medical care. Government mandates however are not the answer.

Outside of delivering the mail, national defense, and a select few other government programs, the track record on efficient government services is abysmal. Government programs always seem to become a bloated bureaucratic nightmare for the taxpayer.

The proposed universal healthcare system would likely devolve into crony hires with very little interest in providing low cost, high quality healthcare. This is party neutral. President Bush’s appointments to government positions have been, in some cases, less than stellar. Some of President-Elect Obama’s appointments can easily maintain the same moniker.

The healthcare system certain needs to be reformed. The best solution needs to include reducing insurance rates through tort reform, tax incentives to business to provide their employees with quality health insurance, and serious tax incentives to individuals that have to pay for their own insurance. The private sector can handle this problem without “big brother” stepping in to muddy the process. They just need to be given the tools to responsibly and profitably address the issue.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Luzerne County Gun Permit Ban

The Times Leader reports that Democrat Sheriff Michael Savokinas will temporarily stop issuing firearm permits. This is due to the cuts in manpower instituted by the Luzerne County Commissioners. His office will not accept applications for permits until after January 19.

The Sheriff blames the inability to issue permits on the cuts eliminating part-time workers in his department.

After January 19, the Sheriff’s Office will once again accept applications, but only on Mondays and Wednesdays.

It really isn’t surprising that the heavy traffic in the permit department is occurring. Despite Barack Hussein Obama encouraging people NOT to go out and purchase a firearm before he is officially sworn in to office, many are in fact running out and purchasing firearms. They likely believe that anything they get now will be “grandfathered” in should he seek to impose another gun ban as he did in Illinois and as he supported in the Heller decision.

Supreme Court Race 2009

The Associated Press is covering the opening on the Supreme Court Bench in Pennsylvania. The seat will be the lone position available in 2009. It was created by the retirement of Democrat Justice Jane Cutler Greenspan.

Unfortunately, the level of attention paid to judicial candidates is rarely high. This race could add to the political intrigue of 2010. As we discussed previously, the census will be conducted in 2010 and redistricting will occur after that.

Historically, litigation follows the redistricting plans created by the Senate. The final arbiter of that plan would be the State Supreme Court. The Republicans had a majority on the bench until the 2007 election when two Democrats were elected to the post. Now, the Democrats have a 1 seat majority. With the retirement of Democrat Justice Greenspan, that brings the bench to an even distribution. Whichever party wins the position will ultimately tip the scales and create a majority for the winner’s party.

Both parties are likely to be heavily involved in this race. It be the Democrat’s first chance to prove that they can replicate the success of the Obama operation in Pennsylvania. It will also be the first chance for the Republicans to pull their collective heads out of their bottoms and try to win an election since their defeat in the 2008 Election.

Except for the impressive win of Republican Tom Corbett to the post of Attorney General, the Republican Party failed to capture a statewide win in 2008.

So far, there is no dearth of candidates. The Republican Candidates are Superior Court Justices Joan Orie Melvin, Cheryll Allen, and Jacqueline Shogan and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto. The Democratic Candidates are Superior Court Jack Panella and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina.

All of the candidates have sought statewide office before with the exception of Judge M. Teresa Sarmina. Justices Melvin, Allen, Shogan, and Panella have been successful. Panepinto couldn’t win the 2007 Primary for the Republican nomination to the Supreme Court.

The Democrats plan to meet on January, 31 to consider endorsing candidates. The Republicans plan to meet on February 7, to do the same.

Only in Scranton

According to the Scranton Times, Scranton City Council is considering giving themselves a raise. Not stopping there, they also think the Mayor, Controller, and Deputy Controller all deserve a raise as well. And no, they are not taking the money from their newly created and very controversial “Assistant Zoning Officer” to pay for it.

In truth, there is little clarity on where the money will come from because Scranton’s City Council’s agenda is conspicuously incomplete. The agenda states that the Deputy City Controller will get what appears to be a retroactive raise of $4,814 beginning January 1st by raiding the City’s contingency account. It states that the Controller, Council, and Mayor will all get raises but fails to disclose how much or where the money will be taken from.

Democrat Councilman and Doherty supporter Robert McGoff is quoted by the Scranton Times saying “If people are opposed to it, so be it.”

This lack of concern is appalling. In the private sector, you are rewarded for profitable work by seeing your wages increased. None in Scranton’s government can make that claim. Scranton’s borrowing is out of control, it is still considered a distressed city under Act 47, and despite some effort on the part of its mayor, businesses are not exactly running to open in Scranton.

As a matter of fact, the Department of Labor (DOL) has issued new labor statistics. The Times Leader reports that unemployment rates have now jumped to 7.2% in December of 2008. Scranton’s rate in November of 2008 was 6.6% according to the DOL. If you look at this rate for the Scranton area from the historical perspective you will find that recent performance has been terrible in comparison.

Below are the annual rates provided by the Bureau of Labor for Scranton over the last 10 years:
2007 4.9%
2006 5.2%
2005 5.6%
2004 6.4%
2003 6.2%
2002 6.3%
2001 5.5%
2000 4.9%
1999 5.6%
1998 6.2%

Instead of filling their own pockets, Scranton’s government needs to start getting serious about improving the economy in the city. Then, and only then, should they consider increasing their wages for their profitable work.

Lastly, the suggestion that the Controller and Deputy Controller should receive a raise is the most ludicrous of all. We covered Scranton’s pattern of skirting the law and avoiding performance of timely audits. Scranton’s law requires the Controller to submit the previous year’s audit to Council prior to the first Monday in April of each year. The law can be found here.

The Controller’s office has demonstrated that they either posses an utter disregard for Scranton’s statutes regarding audits or an utter inability to get the job done. Scranton is a distressed municipality. They should be able to give a fair and accurate accounting of their finances at all times, not just at the end of the year. For years these audits have been done late. This is a serious matter that has been consistently fumbled by the Controller’s office. That office does not deserve a raise, they deserve to be fired.

Pat O'Malley for Mayor?

The Scranton Times reports that Republican Pat O’Malley may be considering a run for Mayor in the city of Scranton. O’Malley is a current member of Scranton’s School Board of Directors. O’Malley is also the lone Republican on the Board.

O’Malley was elected in 2007 and was high vote-getter in the School Board race. Securing a position on both the Republican and Democratic ballot, O’Malley won with an impressive 11,540 votes.

O’Malley is the most serious Republican challenger to Doherty that has talked about it publicly to date.

Luzerne County Commissioners Battle

Both the Citizen’s Voice and the Times Leader are covering the most recent brouhaha between the Luzerne County’s Commissioners.

The boiling point was reached over budget talks. Luzerne County is in deep financial trouble. After laying off many employees and being sued by the Luzerne County Courts to protect their jobs, tempers are flaring and patience is getting slim.

The Citizen’s Voice has audio of the encounter, the Times Leader has video on the right of the story.

Accusations of not showing up for work, not communicating, and not working together ruled the day.

Luzerne County’s government is an embarrassment. It really is too bad that there isn’t a provision for a recall election in Luzerne County.

On the brighter side, there is one possibility for change. One of the suggestions during the public participation section of the agenda was another Home Rule Commission. We talked about it in December. When confronted with waiving the petition signature requirements to place it on the ballot, Republican Commissioner Urban said he was against it, Democrat Commissioner Petrilla danced around it, and Democrat Commissioner Skrepenak wouldn’t rule it out but was non-committal. The Times Leader covered the exchange regarding home rule.

Dunmore Bankrupt?

The Borough of Dunmore is considering going bankrupt. According to the Scranton Times, Dunmore’s sadistic 36% tax increase simply will not be enough to cover the financial mismanagement of the Borough.

While not entirely ruling out Act 47 (Distressed Municipality) protection, Democrat Melanie Naro seems to be favoring the idea of bankruptcy. It is her opinion that Dunmore might find a more favorable position in bankruptcy instead of Distressed City Status.

Sine inception of Act 47 in 1987, no municipality has filed for bankruptcy. Neighboring municipality Scranton, has been operating under Act 47 protection. Democrat Mayor Chris Doherty has not been able to escape Act 47 during his tenure.

Regardless of the decision council makes, the situation looks bleak in Dunmore.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Scranton Jobs and Raises

According to the Scranton Times, a new job was created in the City of Scranton. The positions is called Assistant Zoning Officer. Without advertising the job, Zach Connors, former Democrat Mayor Jimmy Connors’s son, was hired for the position.

This created a bit of controversy. Typically, a zoning officer would have experience in the field and/or a degree in a related field. Apparently, Connors had neither.

At the following council meeting, the Times Leader reported that council members and speakers at council sparred over the hiring.

Mr. Connors eventually resigned the position amid the controversy. In defense of the hiring, Democrat City Council Member Judy Gatelli cited her own lack of experience when she began working in City Government and is quoted as saying “I don’t know that qualifications necessarily make you the best person for the job.”

In other Scranton news, Sue Henry of WILK newsradio, broke a story about Scranton’s council agenda next week. Apparently it contains raises for many elected officials in Scranton. The agenda should be posted on Scranton’s website later today.

Considering Scranton’s inability to get its own financial house in order enough to dump the “distressed” status under its current leadership, I cannot see how their “work” would be deserving of a raise. Considering the state of the economy, granting yourself a raise while unemployment rates are skyrocketing shows a great deal of disrespect on the part of the elected officials that would propose such a thing.

Who knows, maybe increasing the salary of elected positions in Scranton will encourage candidates with the taxpayer’s best interest at heart to seek one of Scranton’s elected posts. Scranton’s Mayor and three of its council positions are up for re-election this year.

DOJ Files Against Panthers

The Panthers were on the prowl in PA during the 2008 Presidential Election. Media reports indicated that members of this black-supremacist group were standing outside of a poll in Philadelphia brandishing a nightstick. Police removed one of the Black Panthers from the polling location.

A lawsuit was filed against the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and several members individually.

The suit alleges voter intimidation, attempting to intimidate voters, intimidation of individuals assisting voters, and attempted intimidation of individuals assisting voters.

Intimidation


Police Response