Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cartwright Votes Against Holding IRS, Lois Lerner Accountable

As a candidate, Democratic Matt Cartwright made clear his contempt for anyone associated with the Tea Party.  As a Congressman, that distaste for the Taxed Enough Already crowd was apparent in a recent vote to hold the IRS and Lois Lerner accountable for using the taxing power of the federal government as a political weapon.

Last night, by a vote of 231-187, Lois Lerner was held in contempt of congress for failing to cooperate with an investigation into alleged illegal targeting of conservative groups by the IRS.  Democratic Cartwright voted against this measure making clear that he and House Democrats support using the IRS as a bludgeon to pursue groups based on their political beliefs.

To recap:
And the Democrats in the House like Matt Cartwright are apparently OK with that.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Region Most Miserable in PA

The people that make up the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area are among the most miserable souls in all of these United States, according to Gallup.  The survey, dubbed the State of American Well-Being, was started eight years ago and collects information from  physical and emotional health to financial security and many issues in-between.  178,000 surveys were completed nationally, yielding these results.

This region, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, is dominated by Democrats.

Democratic Scranton has been financially distressed since the 1990's and its all-Democratic government just made yet another installment of a tax-smackdown on its residents.  Unions are threatening to take city assets and businesses are fleeing Scranton like rats on a sinking ship.  Democratic Wilkes-Barre is in better financial shape than Scranton (which really isn't saying much) but leads the region in murders and is apparently so incompetent, they cannot even operate gas pumps correctly.

Taken together, this Democratic region also boasts the highest unemployment in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Financial mismanagement of government and the sky-high taxes it necessitates will destroy any local economy, given enough time.  Corruption will hasten the process and further diminish any faith people might have in their leaders, which certainly has occurred in this region.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to expect the residents of a region to feel good about the situation they find themselves in.  The question is when will their level of misery be high enough that they actually do something about it by rejecting their present leaders and the ways of the past for fiscal hawks that won't waste their money or raise their taxes so their economies can begin to grow again?


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kathleen Kane Imploding

In case you live under a rock, Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane is under major fire for her decision to shut down a sting that snared Philadelphia officials.  The Democratic House Minority Leader has responded to the allegations suggesting that, if it is true that the House members in question accepted "gifts" without reporting them, they should correct their reporting mistakes.

Sure, that's what they were, reporting mistakes.

And, unbelievably, the penalty for their "reporting mistake" is a $250 fine or, if the lack of disclosure was intentional, its the amount they accepted plus $250.

Compounding the issue and the criticism, Democrat Kane lawyered up and went to talk or rather, had her lawyer talk, with the folks that published the story on the investigation.

The rhetoric used by Kane in explaining her decision has provoked the District Attorney of Philadelphia, the lead investigator in the case, and the supervisor of the investigation to issue blistering responses.  The last one, the supervisor, also threw down a "face me" challenge to Kane, calling for her to debate her decision fully and publicly.

To top it off, Kane's office has shed its third press secretary in 14 months. That's not to suggest separation had anything to do with the current crap-storm that is swirling around the AG's office.  In fact, there isn't much of an explanation at all about what caused the separation.  The optics are just terrible having all of this coincide with the separation.

The good news is that, while the Democratic Attorney General and her press office can't seem to get out of their own way, Republicans are responding to the allegation of corruption of Democratic officials in Philadelphia.   Republican Senator Lisa Baker has announced plans to introduce legislation to impose an absolute ban on cash gifts to lawmakers.

This initiative taken by Republicans to right a wrong, while Democrats talk about fixing "reporting mistakes" made by their members, clearly demonstrates the bold contrast between the level-headed leadership and responsive government that Republicans offer the people of Pennsylvania with the dysfunction and excuses offered by the Democrats.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Crime-Fighting Ninja Mayor Strikes in Scranton

Steve Corbett of WILK News Radio broke a serious story surrounding the Scranton Saint Patrick's Day Parade recently.

According to Corbett, a fight broke out in Scranton on Parade Day (shocking, I know) and, despite a police officer being present, Democratic Bill Courtright a.k.a. Mayor Sho'Nuff saw fit to get physically involved and restrain the alleged assailant.



Not too long ago, an unfair labor practice was filed over the Chief of Police, Officer Dan Duffy, making an off-duty drug arrest. That was an off-duty police officer making a bust, while he was out of the union, yet still doing the job of a police officer.  This is a civilian, also not a member of the union, arguably also attempting to do the job of a properly trained police officer.

Will another unfair labor practice suit be filed now that Democratic Mayor Bill Courtright is playing cop?  Probably not, Mayor Sho'Nuff is the union's guy in Scranton and even the unions must understand that Scranton taxpayers surely cannot afford another lawsuit.

But, lawsuit or not, Mayor Sho'Nuff should leave the police work to the highly trained, Act 120 certified, and liability insurance covered law enforcement professionals.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Willful Blindness, Lazy, or Something Else?

In today’s Scranton Times-Tribune they got around to reporting on the challenge to Lee Morgan’s petitions that was reported here on March 19th.

Remarkably, the story stated the following:
Mr. Flynn and Mr. Morgan, who live in Scranton, filed petitions seeking the Democratic nomination for the 113th state House District seat, which Mr. Flynn won in 2012. No Republican filed. If Mr. Morgan is thrown off the ballot, Mr. Flynn would have no Democratic or Republican opposition, although someone could mount a write-in vote campaign for the seat. 

Fellas, there is a Republican in the race. How does a reporter write about a race, presumably using the Department of State website that lists all the candidates AND the challenges that may be filed against them, and miss the fact that there is a Republican in there?

It’s easy to see why many would argue that the Scranton Times-Tribune is more the local propaganda arm of the Democratic Party than a newspaper when stuff like this happens.

The Scranton Times-Tribune should immediately update their online edition to correct their negligence and run a correction in tomorrow’s print edition that states that, despite their claim to the contrary, there is a Republican challenger to Marty Flynn, his name is Marcel Lisi, and the paper would like to apologize to Mr. Lisi and the electorate for failing to actually research a race before writing about it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Petition Challenges

Circulating nomination petitions are a regular part of a campaign.  Without the requisite signatures and proper filings, candidates may not be granted ballot access.  The laws governing ballot access are both direct and specific.  The myriad legal decisions modifying them can be difficult to navigate. 

Volunteers and in many cases the candidate will circulate these petitions gathering signatures from other members of their political party that reside in the district for which they are seeking office, asking that the name of the candidate be placed on the ballot.

This occurs over a three week period.

Because of the inevitable errors that will occur when having volunteers gather signatures from these electors, campaigns typically get more than are needed - sometimes even two or three times more than the minimum - to guarantee their candidate's name is placed upon the ballot.

This process also gives a campaign the opportunity to test its grassroots strength.  Particularly since there is a very short period of time to gather said signatures.


According to the PA Department of State, the following candidates from NEPA or running statewide have had their petitions challenged at the time of writing:

  • Robert R. Guzzardi, Republican candidate for Governor
  • Joseph V. Paterno Jr., Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor
  • Lee Briane Morgan, Democratic candidate for 113th State Representative

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ethicsgate?

Political activist Gene Stilp is at it again.  This time, he raises a concern brought forward in this forum in December of 2013.

Mr. Stilp's complaint takes ten actions dealing with the practice of State Legislators using taxpayer funds as an "incumbent protection program."  In essence, he alleges State Legislators are using taxpayer funds to communicate with voters in areas in which they do not represent and will not represent until and unless they are successful in their 2014 elections.

Stilp calls for an investigation by the Office of Attorney General, Department of Revenue and Internal Revenue Service.  He also filed a complaint with the PA State Ethics Commission, put in several right to know requests, and made a call to correct this action legislatively.

As was made clear in December, these expenditures are questionable at best and raw expenditures of taxpayer funds to influence an election at worst.  There are occasions when a legislator may incur an expense outside of their district based on their committee assignments, on fact finding missions, or other ventures which enhance their current district or make them a more effective legislator but these instances of expenditures outside of their district are rare occurrences.

No member of the legislature should be dispersing taxpayer funds into an area they do not currently represent unless they can demonstrate a clear benefit for their current constituents.

h/t: KeystoneReport

Monday, March 10, 2014

Businesses Flee Democratic Scranton

Last week, two business began pulling up stakes for neighboring communities taking 300 jobs with them.  Democratic Mayor Bill Courtright doesn't believe it's because of the threat of tax increases or Scranton's inability to govern itself efficiently.

Sure, Bill.  Keep telling yourself that.

Scranton has been and remains, a mess.  This mess has been perpetuated by Scranton's continual desire to maintain the status quo of one party rule.  With the exception of one city which recently busted that cycle, every Act 47 Distressed Municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is dominated by Democrats.

You get the government you vote for, Scranton.  If you keep voting for Democrats that have no problem raising taxes, raising fees, and borrowing money they can never hope to pay back, don't be surprised when they do exactly that and leave you with the bill.  Those aren't sound economic principles.  In fact, as the Act 47 designation has clearly demonstrated, that type of governance leads to only one thing, bankruptcy.

Moody's said last year that Scranton faced bankruptcy and it is that type of environment that most businesses would seek to avoid.  Don't be surprised if businesses continue to jump ship, taking their jobs with them.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cartwright Out of Focus

The IRS is an incredibly powerful organization.  With the stroke of a pen it can take everything you have, close your business, or bleed you out with audits and their accompanying legal costs.  That's why it was absolutely necessary to investigate claims that the IRS was being used as a bludgeon to take out anyone that disagreed with the Obama Administration.  If this did in fact occur and were allowed to continue, it would be a very dangerous precedent where any future administration could use the IRS in this way to stifle free speech and political dissent.

At least some suspicions were confirmed when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reviewed the IRS's targeting of conservative groups.  It found that the IRS used "inappropriate criteria" for determining which groups would be targeted for review.

While the investigation was ongoing, President Obama indicated that there wasn't even a "smidgen of corruption" in the IRS.  This, despite the admission of the progressives at ProPublica that they were given confidential IRS documents on conservative groups by the IRS.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Obama Budget Increases Public Debt to $25 Trillion, Hikes Taxes, Never Balances

Remember this?

President Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget is out and everyone is pouring over the numbers.  Despite over $1 trillion in tax increases, the budget predictably never balances, and increases the national debt immensely.

Based on President Obama's projections, the national debt (Table S-13) will increase to $24.986 trillion by 2024.  The debt held by government accounts would be $6 trillion and the debt held by the public would be $18.986 trillion.  This would bring the debt to 69% of the GDP.

The total federal debt was $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Obama Budget Defunds State Criminal Alien Assistance Program

On March 4, President Obama unveiled his 2015 budget.  One of the many cuts used to pay for the $3.9 trillion monstrosity is to eliminate the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).  This program is used to reimburse local governments for the cost of jailing illegal aliens.

The fact that local governments have to spend any money at all to jail individuals in the United States illegally, demonstrates the failure of the federal government to regulate immigration and secure our borders.

Luzerne County, for example, received only $130,081 from the federal government towards the $1.7 million cost to jail 184 illegal aliens for one year.  This deficit produced by the failures of the federal government was then passed on to local taxpayers.

The cost of the Obama Administration's failure to protect the borders of the United States and enforce our immigration laws should not be passed on to the local taxpayers of Luzerne County nor should the Obama administration be allowed to absolve themselves of their responsibility to pay for their failed policies.

President Obama's evisceration of SCAAP funding should be restored by Congress.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

2013 ACU Ratings for NEPA

The American Conservative Union (ACU) was founded in 1964, making it the oldest and the largest grassroots conservative organization in these United States.  Their focus is on the traditional conservative principles of liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values, and a strong national defense.

Since 1971, the ACU has ranked members of congress.  More recently, they began rating state legislatures.

For the 2013 Pennsylvania rankings, the ACU examined the voting record of each member of the legislature and gave them a score from 0-100% with 0% being the most liberal voting records and 100% being the most conservative voting records.

The scores in the Northeast:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Still No Answers on Missing Fuel

The Times Leader reported yesterday that Luzerne County's Republican District Attorney, Stefanie Salavantis has still not completed her investigation into fuel missing from Wilkes-Barre's fuel tanks.  The investigation began in July of 2012 when the same paper reported that gasoline and diesel fuel were missing from the DPW.

This isn't a few gallons either.

The Department of Revenue figured it was about 67,000 gallons of tax-free fuel that was unaccounted for and sent off a $25,919 assessment.

So first, the Times-Leader deserves thanks for exposing, well, whatever it is that was going on.  But second, one has to question why it is taking such an incredibly long time to complete this investigation, forcing the "whatever it is that was going on" description.

Investigations by law enforcement are serious matters.  Before any charges are filed it is critical that the authorities perform absolute due diligence to guarantee that they have uncovered the facts correctly and entirely.

If nothing else, it is clear that the Democratic administration responsible for maintaining proper accounting procedures of taxpayers resources was an absolute failure.  This certainly can and probably has made the investigation more difficult.

In a few months, the taxpayers will have been waiting two years for answers on the missing fuel.  If more resources are needed, even on a short-term basis, the District Attorney's office should be given what is needed to properly bring this investigation to a close.

Friday, February 7, 2014

CBO's Latest on Obamacare

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently issued a new report with updated figures on Obamacare and the effect it will have on employment and the federal government generally.

The CBO says that Obamacare will cause a cumulative loss in the workforce equivalent to 2.3 million full-time jobs.  Previously, the CBO had indicated that Obamacare would shrink the workforce by 800,000 workers.

It also indicated that the Debt will rise to 100% of GDP by 2038.

Remember, in 2009, when you were told that Obamacare was worth it's then $848 billion price tag because 31 million people would be insured?  Totally off.  New estimates suggest that Obamacare will cost $2 trillion and will only insure 25 million people.  So, not only does Obamacare cover less than promised, it cost more than promised as well.  A lot more.  $848 billion to insure 31 million people is approximately $27,000 per person.  $2 trillion to insure 25 million people is about $80,000 per person...the kind of "savings" only the progressives in the federal government could produce.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Big Labor Brings Luzerne Tax Increase

Lay off 200 people or hike taxes?

According to MediaTrackers, that's the choice Luzerne County Council had to make when unionized employees rejected a proposal to bring employees under one insurance provider, increase co-payments, and add a $500 hospital stay deductible to their plans.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Corbett's 2014-15 Budget and Education Dollars

Yesterday, Republican Governor Tom Corbett unveiled his 2014-2015 budget.  The focus of this budget by his detractors will be education spending, the same drum that has been beat for every year of his service.  The saddest part of this whole debate is the misinformation that surrounds the budget generally but on education in particular.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Life of the Party

Liveleak copy of the most recent Snowden interview.

Last week, Politico reported that the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution condemning the 'unconstitutional' policies of President Obama.

Yes, your first thought is probably "of which unconstitutional policies of President Obama does the RNC speak, there are so many!"

No, it wasn't his unconstitutional appointments, his unilateral re-writing of laws, or his exemption granted to Obamacare for members of Congress and insurance policies.

It was his spy programs.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SOTU 2014

Tonight President Obama will deliver his state of the union address.  The issues of illegal immigration and a minimum wage increase will likely take a prominent role, sewn together with class warfare. Don't be terribly surprised to hear a call for a clean debt limit increase as well.

Following the speech, progressive politicians will release their platitudes.  Calls for legislation to address those demands that even President Obama will not make by executive order will be made.  And, all of this will likely be done with the willful blindness and hypocrisy that has come to define progressives.

Friday, January 24, 2014

USPS: The Mix Tape

Remember making mix tapes?  You could either record from the radio while your favorite songs were playing or, if you were really lucky and had a boom box with two cassette decks, you could pull a song from one onto the other.  Some of you reading this, may not even have owned a cassette deck.  The mix tape, and cassettes for that matter, have become obsolete.  The combination of CDs and the proliferation of computers which could burn CDs, doomed the poor cassette.

But what really happened here is that the market demanded a new product that was more convenient, gave the user more control, and produced a better quality and cassettes simply couldn't meet the demand.

The United States Postal Service is going through a similar situation.  This venture is losing money despite being the only show in town.  Year after year, they cannot meet their obligations or they raise rates or both.  Part of their loses can be attributed to online communication - people simply do not send letters to communicate like they used to.  They don't even pay bills like they used to.  But that is no excuse for a business to not operate in a monopoly environment.

When a normal business is losing sales volume, they typically do something new.  They improve their products, make doing business with them easier for the consumer, or maybe lower rates.  In short, they improve service.

The knee-jerk reaction of the Postal Service has been to increase cost.  And, as any thinking person would expect, people have responded to the increased costs by continuing to take their business elsewhere.  Unable or unwilling to adjust their prices, they are now seeking to improve availability of service.  They are testing ways to make their product more available and more convenient to their customers, which has earned a rebuke from big labor.

The United States Postal Service should resist the union's attempts to preserve a failed system that simply no longer works.  There is no clearer evidence needed than the weak balance sheets of the USPS despite having a complete and total monopoly on sending regular, first-class mail.  If they bend to the antiquated thinking of big labor, the market will respond and eventually send the postman the way of the mix tape.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Economy of Shale

The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, and Linde Corporation are hosting a forum entitled The Economy of Shale.  It will be moderated by Robert F. Durkin, Chamber President and include the following panelists:

  • Vince Matteo, DPA, President & CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce
  • Rayola Dougher, MA, Senior Economic Advisor, American Petroleum Institute
  • Patricia Acker, Linde Corporation and Chair of the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Corporation (SLIBCO)

The event will be held at Lackawanna College, Angeli Hall, Ground Floor, 501 Vine Street, Scranton, PA at 6:30 pm on January 29th, 2014.

For information on how to RSVP, please consult their invitation.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Insurance Company "Bailouts" Under Obamacare

Obamacare is likely to be the premiere issue in the 2014 federal elections.  Following the unmitigated disaster of the Obamacare website launch, intense scrutiny has continued to follow the law.

One area which has drawn attention is the "bailout" of the insurance companies with the reinsurance fund and the risk corridor provisions of the law, sections 1341 and 1342, respectively.  Conservatives have proposed legislation to strip these provisions from the law.

Obamacare demands massive enrollment figures.  Absent these high enrollment numbers, particularly from healthy young people, the program will collapse under its own fiscal weight.  This exacerbates the problem of the bungled website launch.  And that, coupled with President Obama's continue use of "exemptions" for favored special interest groups, is a prescription for failure.

But what would failure mean at this point?  Some, like the Galen Institute, argue it could be a catalyst for the progressive's favored system of single-payer.  The liberals have said as much.  Galen's analysis is worth the read.  It raises several good points that seem to be missing from the debate.  Not the least of which is whether conservatives are being played by progressives in DC.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bob Casey Jr. Scores 7 out of 7

Politico has a story about Hillary Clinton's "Hit List."  What they describe as a "favor file of saints and sinners," which is basically lifted from a new book: HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton.

In this list, people that helped or hurt Mrs. Clinton's efforts during the 2008 campaign are recorded.  1 is for the most helpful of supporters, 7 is reserved for the most treacherous of politicians that betrayed her.

Scranton's own Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey has earned himself a 7 with his March, 2008 endorsement of BHO when he said:
“This campaign is a chance for America, a chance for America to chart a new course …  I believe in my heart that there’s one person who's uniquely qualified to lead us in that new direction, and that is Barack Obama.”
What does that mean for Casey Jr?  Probably not much.  If Mrs. Clinton does actually run for president in 2016, that will give the Senator plenty of time to kiss butt and mend fences.  There really is no road to victory for Clinton (or any Democrat, really) that doesn't run through Pennsylvania and that will be Casey's get out of jail free card.



Friday, January 17, 2014

Police in Wilkes-Barre

A troubling story is emerging in Wilkes-Barre dealing with the behavior of off-duty police.

Recently, an off-duty police officer, presumably in his personal vehicle given that it was a pickup truck, issued two citations to a woman driving in Wilkes-Barre.  She was able to beat one of the charges at the Magisterial level, but was found guilty of another.  She has since filed a complaint against the officer involved.

Law enforcement is permitted to file citations for crimes they witness when off-duty and no one appears to be disputing that in this situation.  But, based on the description the woman gave of the incident, it appears as though the police officer should perhaps be cited himself.

Wilkes-Barre is a dangerous city that is leading the region in murders.  Given that backdrop, law enforcement should not expect anyone to stop for an unmarked vehicle in the city.  And really, police officers should not be using unmarked vehicles to perform traffic stops nor should they be giving chase to traffic violators in vehicles that are not only unmarked, but do not have the benefit of lights and sirens.  Doing so puts the public at greater risk than someone making a minor traffic violation.

This incident should be evaluated by the administration and some type of resolution make public to the citizenry of Wilkes-Barre.  Giving the impression that motorists should stop for any vehicle that flags them to pull over is a dangerous precedent that needs to be resolved immediately.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Melanie Madeira for State Representative

Melanie Madeira has announced her candidacy for State Representative in Pennsylvania's 114th Legislative District.  The District is current represented by Democrat Sid Michaels Kavulich.

From her about page:
Melanie was born and raised in North East Pennsylvania and has raised her six children here with her husband of 21 years, David.  She is very concerned about the fundamental transformation that America is undergoing and has been involved in pubic advocacy for our Constitutionally protected rights for decades. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Independent?

Gallup has an interesting new statistic: 42% of Americans self-identify as Independents.  Republican ID is down to 25% and Democrat to 31%.  They also posit that most of that attrition is at the expense of Republicans.

Republicans, hit a recent high of 34% in 2004 and have basically fallen since then.  Democrats hit their high in 2008 with 36%.  The 2004 GOP high was on the heels of GWB's successful re-elect and the Democrat high ran in tandem with the Hope-N-Change election of 2008.

Truly, there is no mistaking a growing dissatisfaction with the two major parties.  Dissatisfaction with Democrats because they are becoming more and more progressive with little tolerance or patience for any politician that isn't hard left (remember Tim Holden?) and dissatisfaction with Republicans after they abandoned positions of individual empowerment, freedom, and fiscal restraint to become Democrat-Lites.

A major policy correction in the GOP occurred in 2009/2010, giving them sweeping victories in 2010 and started their return in popularity...until it became clear that they could neither deliver on their promises (largely due to only capturing the House) nor effectively communicate with the American people.

If Republicans want to register new voters, they must pursue policies that empower individuals to succeed, protect individual freedoms, and return true fiscal sanity to government but they also must be fearless in advocating for these policies.  (Note to GOP: the mainstream media is not going to support you or your efforts, deal with it by talking directly to the people.)

The Democrats, on a similar trajectory as the 2005/2006 GOP, will be forced to go through a major policy correction, as the Republicans did, or will continue to hemorrhage centrists until they find themselves in a similar position.

Before Democrats can attract new voters, they must resolve their identify crisis.  Will they be the party of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" or will they once again realize their primary challenge is "not how to divide the economic pie, but how to enlarge it."

Until both major parties figure this out, the ranks of Independents will continue to swell.

Monday, January 13, 2014

DEP Seeks Public Comment in Williamsport

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Quality Board has proposed changes to regulations that govern environmental protection performance standards associated with oil and gas activities in the Commonwealth.  As part of that process, hearings are being held throughout Pennsylvania to receive public comment on the proposed changes.

One such hearing will be today at the Pennsylvania College of Technology's Klump Academic Center, One College Avenue, Williamsport, PA 17701.

Williamsport is a perfect place to hold such a hearing, given the massive economic growth they have experienced from the natural gas industry.

The drilling industry helped give the Williamsport area the seventh fastest growing economy the United States in 2010.   It also helped stem the population loss Williamsport had been experiencing.  For decades, the city was losing a few thousand people every ten years.  For the first time in ta long time, those losses were cut in half.  Impact fees have also been helpful to the County, bringing in $4.3 million in Act 13 Impact Fees in 2012.

Economic considerations should not drive the debate when evaluating regulatory changes, but they should be part of the discussion and it is encouraging that DEP is holding so many hearings across the Commonwealth to hear from the public.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Will Transparency Take a Hit in Scranton?

Scranton's financial problems are arguably the most pressing issue facing the city.  The seriousness of the issue demands that the solutions to its financial crisis be negotiated in the full view of the public, and under the conventional ethics that bind all public officials.

Incoming Democratic Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright, with the assistance and financial backing of the Scranton Chamber of Commerce, is considering hiring a financial consultant from New Jersey to help navigate the troubled waters before Scranton.  Under the deal, the consultant would be hired by and paid by the Chamber to perform these otherwise official duties.

The contractual duties of this consultant will be to assist in budgets, provide support and guidance to the administration, develop and model new sources of revenue, meet with other officials at the City's direction, work with the city's departments and the administration toward various analyses.

PEL, the City of Scranton's Act 47 Recovery Coordinator, likes the plan and the partnership with the Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

But what of transparency?

The Pennsylvania Public Official and Employee Ethics Act covers public officials, public employees, candidates, and nominees for confirmation.  Reviewing the definitions of each, it would appear as though this consultant that will be performing unquestionably official actions for the City of Scranton may not be covered by the act.

With respect to the open records law, the actions of a private contractor performing work for a private organization would also likely not be covered - even though these actions would be for the city.

If an employee of the City of Scranton performed these same duties, they would be covered under the ethics act and be bound by the same transparency requirements as any other governmental agency.

While it is laudable that the Scranton Chamber of Commerce would act as a participant in Scranton's recovery, it should not be done with opacity.  If accountability and transparency is to be preserved, the consultant should be hired directly by the city.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Abuse of Workers/Taxpayer Dollars?


Should it be legal to only hire people for a job if they agree to join a particular organization and should your taxpayer dollars be used to collect dues for that same organization?

The Commonwealth Foundation is banking on most people answering with a resounding "NO!" to that question.  Efforts appear to be underway to get the Pennsylvania legislature to address this issue.

The argument is simple and intuitive: no one should be forced to join an organization in order to get or keep a job and taxpayer resources should not be used to support these organizations.

An added hook to the argument is that some of the resources used to collect dues for these organizations are actually used for political expenditures in the millions.  This is particularly problematic for these organizations, given the freshness of Bonusgate.