pawatercooler.com

Why Are Nutter, Chief Ramsey Playing Games With Philly Murder Rate?

 Murders are up, but Philly PD’s website states they are down — because they’re comparing this year’s killings to those from 2007!

If the CEO of a Wall Street firm announced that revenues were up 22 percent, he would be lauded for his leadership and undoubtedly receive a hefty raise.

By contrast, if it was revealed that the CEO was playing games with the books and basing his figures not on a year-to-date comparison from the prior year, but from four years ago, he would probably be shown the door.

But that’s precisely the situation with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the city’s highest-paid employee.  The argument can be made that Commissioner Ramsey is deliberately misleading the public on the city’s murder rate.

*****

A visit to the Philadelphia Police website Crime Stats page (http://phillypolice.com/about/crime-statistics) verifies what we already know: shootings, violence and murder are out of control throughout the city.  As of this writing, there have been 259 murders since January 1, as one can plainly see from the highlighted 2011 figure on the webpage.  Beside that is a number with a down arrow.  Currently, it’s 18 percent, but last week it stood at 22.  It purports to represent the percentage that murders have decreased.

And therein lies the problem. A big one.

Murders aren’t down 18 or 22 percent.  As a matter of fact, they’re up. Comparing year-to-date statistics, they’ve increased ten from last year, a whopping 24 from 2009 (a ten percent jump), and eight from 2008.   

But Chief Ramsey has decided to hide these numbers and instead compare today’s murder rate with that of 2007, the high-water mark for killings.  That’s like the Phillies claiming a playoff victory because they beat the Cardinals half a decade ago.

It’s interesting to note that Ramsey was hired at the end of 2007, which perhaps explains why he is using that blood-soaked year as his benchmark— all the easier to pass the buck and make himself look better.

Maybe the Chief, and Mayor Nutter, who hired him and remains his boss, missed their callings. They seem better suited for Wall Street firms that rely on misleading investors (in this case, the citizens) for their own personal gain (re-election, job security and bloated pensions). 

So residents get the screws two ways: they walk away with a false sense of security, mistakenly believing that murders are down.  And when they realize the truth — that their leaders are deliberately misleading them — they feel betrayed.

Unlike the Wall Street CEO, Nutter and Ramsey get away scott-free.  And like some robber baron execs, they each make a pile of money, courtesy of a duped public, with little accountability and oversight.

In fact, Chief Ramsey is rolling in it, to the tune of $255,000/year.

You may recall that earlier this year, the Commissioner was actively courted for the top police job in his hometown of Chicago.  Despite pleas that he stay, it was almost a done deal, but for one small sticking point: his $400,000 per year total compensation asking price, according to press reports.  You know it’s greedy when even a liberal Democrat like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel balks at such an obscene amount, which, by the way, is the salary of the President of the United States.

Ramsey’s reason for ultimately staying in Philadelphia? “…the support I got here at home from the business community — and the media, even — and, of course, Mayor Nutter, made the difference.”

Well, that, and the $60,000 pay raise he was promised from the Mayor as a reward for not leaving the city, courtesy of the taxpayers.  That increase makes the Commissioner the highest — repeat, highest — paid city employee.  Even more than the Mayor himself.

Ramsey was right about one thing. He did get quite a bit of support, from city councilmen (“we won the big prize” by retaining Ramsey) to the gushing, sycophant media.  Notably, neither entity bothered asking the right questions before, or after, the lavish pay hike was doled out to the Chief.

Questions such as:

1) How can the city afford to shell out a $60,000/year salary increase to anyone when it can’t even pay its current bills, has an insolvent pension, and continues to see its tax base — what’s left of it — flee? In fact, it was just reported that there is yet another tax revenue shortfall, adding to the budget deficit.  What a surprise.

And for the record, there are plenty of qualified people who would have gladly accepted the Commissioner’s previous salary of $195,000 had he chosen to leave. 

2) When will Philadelphia realize that paying exorbitant salaries to government officials is not just financially foolhardy, but doesn’t guarantee results?  Just look at Arlene Ackerman, the now former School Superintendent who made $325,000/year (with incentives allowing for a half-million dollar payday) to preside over an ever-worsening school district.  For the privilege of leaving her post, she banked $905,000, all footed by the public. 

And don’t forget scandal-plagued former Housing Authority chief Carl Greene, who, with his bonus, was making $350,000.  In addition, residents are still paying sky-high legal bills related to the mess he left behind.

3) Was any quantitative, or better yet, common sense analysis done to see if Ramsey merited such a large salary bump?  Murders are increasing, out-of-control flash mobs have led to curfews, police corruption is rampant, and there is growing fear on the streets, leading many suburbanites to stay away. 

According to the Chief’s 2008 “Crime Fighting Strategy,” the big goal that year was to “reduce homicides by twenty-five percent,” yet the Department was way short, overseeing only a 15 percent drop from 2007 to 2008.  And what of the stated overall plan of reducing homicides by 30 to 50 percent, as outlined in a public letter from Ramsey to Nutter? Not even in the ballpark. As noted above, homicides have been rising, not falling.

While certainly not all these things can be attributable to the Chief, the buck stops with him.  He is responsible.  Just like a CEO often receives no bonus when numbers are down, the Chief of Police should have pay raises tied to performance.  But since the Mayor deals in Other People’s Money, that isn’t the case. 

*****

Is the city is safer? You can play with statistics to bolster any desired conclusion.  Yet ask those in Philadelphia whether they truly feel secure, and most would simply laugh. And that’s the only statistic that matters.

Is the Chief doing a good job? In some respects, yes.  But so stellar that he commands a raise three times more than the city’s per capita income?  Not even close.  The fact that the city can’t afford the money is just salt in the wound.

OK, fine. Ramsey got his money.  It is what it is, and he isn’t relinquishing it.  But that bolsters the point all the more.

The leader of the Police Department should epitomize transparency and honesty.

Instead, in what can only be assumed to be a deliberate attempt to deceive Philadelphians, games are being played with the city’s increasing murder rate.  And there is no excuse for that. None.

The culture of any organization is established by the conduct of its top leaders. In the Philadelphia Police Department’s case, its culture of honor, values and integrity has taken a hit.  And when the rank and file — the guys on the street chasing down the murderers — see their top brass skirting the truth for political gain, perhaps they too cut a corner where they shouldn’t be.  They take on the persona of their leadership.

It’s time for the Mayor and Chief to do the right thing by telling the truth, no matter how difficult that may be. Let’s see more honesty in the most trusted institution in Philadelphia — its police department.

Only when the city’s leaders regain the trust of the people will Philadelphia begin its journey back to respectability.

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania.

Freind’s column, “Freindly Fire,” appears nationally in Newsmax and regionally in Philadelphia Magazine’s Philly Post.  It is also published regularly in a number of the state’s largest newspapers, including The Delaware County Daily Times, Chester County Daily Local, Norristown Times Herald, Pottstown Mercury and Bucks County Courier Post. Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states.

His work has been referenced in numerous other publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ bestseller “Catastrophe.”

 

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , ,
October 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm Comment (1)

Gov. Onorato — Err…Corbett — Gives Unions A Sweetheart Deal

 How this affects you: the new contracts for unionized state employees will cost $164 million as workers get an 11 percent raise, with no pension reform, while the private sector continues to get rocked.

In case you have been living under a rock, here’s a newsflash: we are experiencing one of the most severe recessions in our history, and there are no greener pastures in the immediate future.

So common sense dictates that with high unemployment, decreased tax revenues, large deficits, and, most significantly, massive pension obligations, governors would take whatever steps were necessary to ensure that their states, and its citizens, remain solvent, especially when it comes to negotiating public-sector union contracts.

That happened in places like Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, where true Republicans are in charge. Governors Scott Walker, Mitch Daniels and John Kasich took the heat and did what they had to do, reeling in the out-of-control taxpayer largess afforded to these unions.

But most amazing of all is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s remarkable success. Just last week, he pushed through a monumental union pension and benefit reform package that will save taxpayers over $120 billion — and did so with heavily Democratic, pro-union legislative majorities.  So effective was Christie that alongside him at the bill-signing was the Senate President — a longtime union member.

Contrast that to the deal just reached by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett with the largest state unions. Instead of acting in the best interests of the taxpayers footing the bill, he simply continued the Rendell legacy of keeping the cash register door wide open.

It’s bad enough the Governor rolled over on all the sweeping concessions he was seeking, but he ended up giving the unions a sweetheart deal.

Over the next four years, unionized state employees will receive an almost 11 percent raise and a guarantee of no furloughs.  And remember, this significant bump is in addition to their three percent raise two years ago, four percent raise last year — and three annual step increases which averaged 2.25 percent during that time. Cha-ching!

Must be nice to have such staunch advocates like Governors Rendell and Onorato — sorry, I meant Corbett — fighting for you.

And how do these pay raises compare to those in the private sector?  With such high unemployment and underemployment rates, do you really have to ask?  Most are receiving no raises at all, not even cost of living adjustments.  And those fortunate enough to still have a job have no choice but to hang on for dear life, praying they survive the next round of layoffs.  Making matters worse, many have to also shoulder ever increasing healthcare costs, if they have coverage at all.

In addition to substantial retirement benefits, state workers have guaranteed healthcare, too.  And while they will pay a bit more with this new contract, it’s still at a level way below many in the private sector.

It used to be that working in the public sector was a trade-off.  You wouldn’t make as much money as in the business world, but the benefits were good and contracts were guaranteed.  But all that changed as union contracts exploded upward — at the expense of taxpayers.

Now, in many cases, unionized public employees make more than their peers in the private sector, and retire on pensions and benefit packages that would make Wall Street financiers blush with envy.  Of course, that has come with a price, especially in Pennsylvania, and now it’s time to pay the piper.  State pension obligations go through the roof over the next several years, as annual taxpayer-funded contributions to the two state pension funds increase exponentially, ballooning from $800 million now — to billions per year.

The last Governor and legislature kicked the can down the road last year, but that only gets you so far, and, in the process, devastates the future of our children and grandchildren.

By caving in to the unions, giving them a contact that would be way too generous even in a strong economy, this Governor has chosen not to address the reforms necessary to keep Pennsylvania on solid ground, which will eventually lead to higher state borrowing costs and push the state closer to the abyss.

And while we’re on the subject of the state’s finances, let’s set the facts straight about the current budget. Reducing the budget by four percent is a good thing, but was inevitable after the loss of federal stimulus dollars.  Had he won the governorship, Dan Onorato would have signed a budget almost exactly the same as the one Corbett did.  For that matter, even Governor Spendell, who never saw a spending increase he didn’t like, would have been forced to reduce the budget to close the $4.2 billion budget deficit.

Which, in reality, is closer to $7 billion because no one in Harrisburg wants to address the real fiscal situation.  The budget, which is constitutionally required to be balanced, was passed last year on ghost revenue: $400 million from the tolling of Interstate 80 (which never got tolled);  $800 million raided from the MCARE fund (used to offset high medical malpractice rates) which, in all likelihood, will be ordered repaid by the state Supreme Court; federal Medicaid dollars that were budgeted to be $800 million but in actuality amounted to $595 million; and a $1.1 billion revenue shortfall after ten months of last year’s fiscal year. 

This shortfall seems to have simply vanished off the books.  Of course, do that with your own business — and you go to jail.  So with the looming pension bomb and the real state deficit, it’s not a pretty picture for Pennsylvania’s future.

There was a way to address these issues and begin to reverse the state’s decline.  Governor Corbett could have mandated a situation whereby union members would negotiate with their prospective employer individually, and free market-type incentives would allow for a fair offer — fair for the employee, and fair for the “employer” (the taxpayer).

So an offer would be made — salary, healthcare, benefits — and the individual could choose to accept or decline it.  Which is exactly how it’s done in the free market.  And for those who would claim it wouldn’t be “fair” to the state worker, you know what?  There would be a line a mile long of qualified individuals ready and willing to accept such an offer. Accountability and efficiencies would increase, and unmotivated, bureaucratic sloths would be eliminated in favor of those willing to be good stewards of taxpayer money.

Sound simple and fair enough?  It is, and it’s called the elimination of collective bargaining.  It’s something successfully implemented in other states, but was incomprehensibly taken off the table by Corbett three months ago — while getting absolutely nothing in return. 

The result?  No pension reform, and a lucrative union contract that the Governor says will be a net cost to the taxpayers of $164 million (which means that figure can be safely doubled).

The Wall Street Journal just labeled Corbett as leader of Keystone Cops.  After this latest debacle, it’s hard to disagree.

Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

, , , , , , , , , , , ,
June 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm Comments (0)

Rendell’s Real Legacy: High Taxes, Low Ratings And Clenched Teeth

It was a December night, late 90’s.  My entire family was in downtown Philadelphia taking in the Christmas attractions.  One of our traditions was marveling at the magnificently decorated, larger-than-life tree in the City Hall courtyard.  But when we arrived, the gates were locked.

Viewing the tree wasn’t going to happen.

Disappointed, we started walking away when none other than the Mayor himself came bounding out of City Hall right next to us, clearly in a hurry.  But he saw us, turned around, and shot the bull for several minutes.  Upon hearing our plight, he immediately summoned a police officer from his detail and instructed him to take us up to his office, which “has the best view of the tree,” for as long as we wanted.

That tree never looked so beautiful.

And through it all, that Mayor never asked us our names or where we lived.  Whether or not we were voting constituents had absolutely no bearing on him.  He instinctively did what he thought was right, in much the same way he operated while an Assistant District Attorney, and later, the City’s DA.  He was one of the good guys.

And after his two relatively successful terms as Mayor, hopes that he would lead Pennsylvania in the right direction were not unfounded.

But after eight disastrous years as Pennsylvania’s Governor, Ed Rendell being viewed as a “good guy” is as likely as the Eagles’ winning this year’s Super Bowl: nonexistent.

*****

Up to this point, his legacy was known for three things: the introduction of gambling, which did not live up to the promise of tax-relief; huge tax hikes, coupled with a 40 per cent increase in state spending; and a perception of widespread pay-to-play within his Administration. Of lesser note but still sore subjects were his signing an unconstitutional legislative pay raise and not getting a single budget passed on time — budgets that were full of smoke and mirrors, such as imaginary revenue from the failed I-80 tolling plan.

But now, the image of Rendell that is etched in people’s minds is the Governor blowing his top during one of his final interviews. 

With teeth clenched in a menacing growl, he karate-chops the air and literally screams at 60 Minutes interviewer Lesley Stahl that … “You guys don’t get that. You’re simpletons. You’re idiots if you don’t get that.”   He was defending his position that gaming was good for Pennsylvania, under the rationale that if gamblers are going to lose their paychecks anyway, it’s better for state coffers if they lose them in Pennsylvania.

Truth be told, Rendell’s anger wasn’t really directed at Stahl.  An intelligent man, the Governor is all too aware that, under his watch, the state earned points in all the wrong categories: some of the highest taxes in the country; the nation’s most hostile legal system, causing doctors and companies to flee; a failing educational product; the country’s worst roads, and a decimated manufacturing base.

Pennsylvania’s biggest export is its children, and that, more than anything, has extinguished the hope for a better tomorrow under Rendell.

But if there is ever to be a turnaround, the time is now. Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett will be the state’s new Governor, a leader who has promised to run Pennsylvania in the mold of New Jersey’s Chris Christie.  And he definitely has the horses to accomplish his agenda: the Senate is solidly Republican, and the State House saw a thirteen seat swing to give the GOP a double-digit majority.

Many analysts postulated that Dan Onorato was defeated in the Governor’s race, and the Democrats lost control of the State House, because of the national Republican tidal wave, with Rendell playing little role in that result.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the off-year elections of 1994 and 2010, newly elected Democratic Presidents pushed unpopular policies: Clinton with national health care and gays in the military, and Obama with universal healthcare, cap-and-trade and the stimulus. In both cases, Republicans took advantage of the momentum and captured the U.S. House of Representatives and numerous Governorships, including the gubernatorial victories of Tom Ridge and Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania. 

The State House was a different story. In 1994, the outgoing Governor, Bob Casey, Sr., was a popular conservative Democrat, and his influence helped the Dems maintain their slim majority. But Rendell was an albatross around the neck of Onorato, his protégé, and Democratic incumbents statewide.  Given that Corbett made Rendell’s legacy the focal point of his campaign, the Governor bears the most responsibility for his Party’s shellacking.

It’s legacy time for the Governor, and his approval ratings are downright dismal: twenties throughout much of the state and only thirties in his home base of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Poll numbers don’t lie, so when the vast majority of people say that Rendell’s eight years at the helm were a disaster, the realization of failure sets in, and backlashes occur — hence the uncontrolled outburst on 60 Minutes.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Rendell’s unpopularity is that it occurred despite the media’s cozy relationship with the Governor.  That free pass culminated when…

Read the rest and post a comment at Philly Magazine’s Philly Post:

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2011/01/11/rendell%e2%80%99s-legacy-high-taxes-low-ratings-and-clenched-teeth/

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newsApapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
January 11, 2011 at 11:14 am Comments (0)

Think Before You Vote Today— Cutting Through The Spin

Think Before You Vote Today

As millions of Pennsylvanians head to the polls for today’s primary election, experts have noted that the electorate is restless, volatile, and even angry. They attribute this to unpopular spending policies and a backlash over ever-increasing taxes.

With so many people losing jobs, houses and retirement accounts, the level of interest in how the people’s business is conducted has reached record highs.

At the same time, the level of cynicism and mistrust is also off the charts.

Many activists have learned that challenging the establishment is a daunting task, leading some to become frustrated by the entrenched business-as-usual order that prevails.

As a result, there is a growing perception that most candidates are just more of the same, cleverly disguising themselves as reformers and agents of change to appeal to the electorate’s current mood.

And that’s not an unfounded perception.

All the candidates for U.S. Senate and governor have snappy television ads and slick mail pieces, and all promise virtually the same thing: more jobs, lower taxes and a reformed, more accountable government.

But since all of the candidates detailed below are current office holders, they are, by definition, part of the very establishment against which they campaign. So how do people know which ones to trust, and for whom to vote?    

Trite as it sounds, people need to do their homework. Being busy at home, work and with children’s activities may be a way of life for many, but it’s simply no excuse to be ignorant.

And corrupt and lazy public officials exist on such voter ignorance.

Too many citizens either don’t vote, especially in primaries, or pull the lever merely because of a TV ad or yard sign.

Given the enormous problems that confront us, it’s time for voters to make better informed decisions.

Granted, there is no such thing as a perfect candidate, but if more than a precious few exercised the three “C’s” — common sense, core values and consistency — our government would be infinitely more efficient, and we might actually have a chance of turning the ship around before it plows into the iceberg.

As an Election Day primer, Freindly Fire cuts through the political spin to look at the not-so-well-known political baggage each candidate brings with him, with the hope that such knowledge will allow readers to make the best, most educated choice for Pennsylvania’s future as they head to the polls.

U.S. Senate

-Thirty-year incumbent U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, who has been defying the odds for much of his career, has to contend with the fallout stemming from his highly-publicized Party switch. The question is whether Democrats will follow the lead of President Obama and Governor Rendell in welcoming Specter into the Party, thankful for his decisive votes over the last year, or whether he will be booted from office because he is viewed as the ultimate political opportunist interested only in prolonging his own career.

Interestingly, Specter’s deciding vote on the stimulus plan — made as a Republican —was done so against the advice of trusted political advisors.  Had he gone the safe route and voted with the GOP against the bill, he would have virtually assured himself no primary opponent (as he had also announced his opposition to the union-backed “Card Check” bill). So not only might the opportunism charge not stick, but Specter may, in fact, be rewarded for what he calls his most important vote of conscience.

-Joe Sestak has saturated the airwaves with commercials stating that Specter’s time has come and gone, with fresh blood needed in Washington.  Running as an outsider, he has branded himself as an atypical politician.  Yet his steadfast refusal to release records concerning his controversial departure as Deputy Chief Of Naval Operations, his paltry pay for campaign workers —while family members make thousands —, and his large number of missed votes have led to questions about his character, judgment, and integrity. 

The problem Sestak faces is that, for the most part, people aren’t voting for him; instead, he must rely on “Specter fatigue” — voters coming out against the incumbent. If Sestak is viewed as just another politician, voters will choose the “devil they know.”

 

Governor (GOP)

-State Representative Sam Rohrer touts himself as a constitutional conservative while campaigning for fiscal responsibility and limited government.  Yet on the most important issues to many in the GOP, Rohrer did the opposite of what he now preaches by voting for an unconstitutional payraise as well as hiking his own pension by 50%.  And that pension vote is the largest contributing factor to the state’s pension crisis, which is the ticking time bomb awaiting the next governor when state pension payments jump eightfold in the next three years.

-Attorney General Tom Corbett is certainly the most believable candidate who talks about “reforming Harrisburg,” since his legislative corruption probe has netted ten felony convictions, as well as indictments of two former House Speakers — actions once thought unthinkable by many. But he is still dogged by charges from opponents that his investigations, as well as his lawsuit against Obamacare, are politically motivated.

Corbett’s most notable policy issue is his no-new-taxes pledge. While a sound policy, Corbett will be severely tested not to break it as the fiscal crisis grows to almost unmanageable proportions over the next Governor’s term.  Such pledges prove popular at election time, but the corollary is unmistakable: break it at your own peril.  One only has to look at how much free time President George H.W. Bush had after he uttered — and then broke —one of the most remembered pledges in political history: “Read my lip, no new taxes.”

Governor (Democrats)

Think Before You Vote Today

As millions of Pennsylvanians head to the polls for today’s primary election, experts have noted that the electorate is restless, volatile, and even angry. They attribute this to unpopular spending policies and a backlash over ever-increasing taxes.

With so many people losing jobs, houses and retirement accounts, the level of interest in how the people’s business is conducted has reached record highs.

At the same time, the level of cynicism and mistrust is also off the charts.

Many activists have learned that challenging the establishment is a daunting task, leading some to become frustrated by the entrenched business-as-usual order that prevails.

As a result, there is a growing perception that most candidates are just more of the same, cleverly disguising themselves as reformers and agents of change to appeal to the electorate’s current mood.

And that’s not an unfounded perception.

All the candidates for U.S. Senate and governor have snappy television ads and slick mail pieces, and all promise virtually the same thing: more jobs, lower taxes and a reformed, more accountable government.

But since all of the candidates detailed below are current office holders, they are, by definition, part of the very establishment against which they campaign. So how do people know which ones to trust, and for whom to vote?    

Trite as it sounds, people need to do their homework. Being busy at home, work and with children’s activities may be a way of life for many, but it’s simply no excuse to be ignorant.

And corrupt and lazy public officials exist on such voter ignorance.

Too many citizens either don’t vote, especially in primaries, or pull the lever merely because of a TV ad or yard sign.

Given the enormous problems that confront us, it’s time for voters to make better informed decisions.

Granted, there is no such thing as a perfect candidate, but if more than a precious few exercised the three “C’s” — common sense, core values and consistency — our government would be infinitely more efficient, and we might actually have a chance of turning the ship around before it plows into the iceberg.

As an Election Day primer, Freindly Fire cuts through the political spin to look at the not-so-well-known political baggage each candidate brings with him, with the hope that such knowledge will allow readers to make the best, most educated choice for Pennsylvania’s future as they head to the polls.

U.S. Senate

-Thirty-year incumbent U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, who has been defying the odds for much of his career, has to contend with the fallout stemming from his highly-publicized Party switch. The question is whether Democrats will follow the lead of President Obama and Governor Rendell in welcoming Specter into the Party, thankful for his decisive votes over the last year, or whether he will be booted from office because he is viewed as the ultimate political opportunist interested only in prolonging his own career.

Interestingly, Specter’s deciding vote on the stimulus plan — made as a Republican —was done so against the advice of trusted political advisors.  Had he gone the safe route and voted with the GOP against the bill, he would have virtually assured himself no primary opponent (as he had also announced his opposition to the union-backed “Card Check” bill). So not only might the opportunism charge not stick, but Specter may, in fact, be rewarded for what he calls his most important vote of conscience.

-Joe Sestak has saturated the airwaves with commercials stating that Specter’s time has come and gone, with fresh blood needed in Washington.  Running as an outsider, he has branded himself as an atypical politician.  Yet his steadfast refusal to release records concerning his controversial departure as Deputy Chief Of Naval Operations, his paltry pay for campaign workers —while family members make thousands —, and his large number of missed votes have led to questions about his character, judgment, and integrity. 

The problem Sestak faces is that, for the most part, people aren’t voting for him; instead, he must rely on “Specter fatigue” — voters coming out against the incumbent. If Sestak is viewed as just another politician, voters will choose the “devil they know.”

 

Governor (GOP)

-State Representative Sam Rohrer touts himself as a constitutional conservative while campaigning for fiscal responsibility and limited government.  Yet on the most important issues to many in the GOP, Rohrer did the opposite of what he now preaches by voting for an unconstitutional payraise as well as hiking his own pension by 50%.  And that pension vote is the largest contributing factor to the state’s pension crisis, which is the ticking time bomb awaiting the next governor when state pension payments jump eightfold in the next three years.

-Attorney General Tom Corbett is certainly the most believable candidate who talks about “reforming Harrisburg,” since his legislative corruption probe has netted ten felony convictions, as well as indictments of two former House Speakers — actions once thought unthinkable by many. But he is still dogged by charges from opponents that his investigations, as well as his lawsuit against Obamacare, are politically motivated.

Corbett’s most notable policy issue is his no-new-taxes pledge. While a sound policy, Corbett will be severely tested not to break it as the fiscal crisis grows to almost unmanageable proportions over the next Governor’s term.  Such pledges prove popular at election time, but the corollary is unmistakable: break it at your own peril.  One only has to look at how much free time President George H.W. Bush had after he uttered — and then broke —one of the most remembered pledges in political history: “Read my lip, no new taxes.”

Governor (Democrats)….

Read the rest at Philly Magazine’s Philly Post….

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2010/05/18/freindly-fires-voters-guide-to-election-day/

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , ,
May 18, 2010 at 11:38 am Comments (0)

Cutting Through The Spin: A Hard-Hitting Analysis Of the PA Governor’s Race

Pennsylvania’s elections this year will be front and center on the national scene, as there are numerous hotly contested congressional races and a U.S. Senate seat up for grabs. But attracting the most attention is the open race for governor.

To cut through the self-serving spin that surrounds elections, Freindly Fire sat down with Pittsburgh-based independent political consultant Michael O’Connell to receive a non-partisan analysis of the gubernatorial primary. O’Connell, who has worked the Pennsylvania political landscape for nearly 25 years, has no personal stake in any of the campaigns.

GOP Race: Corbett Vs. Rohrer

Background

The presumptive Republican nominee in the gubernatorial race is Attorney General Tom Corbett. He has won statewide twice, including 2008, in what was an otherwise horrid year for Republicans.  Corbett’s stunning 400,000 vote margin that year — when Barack Obama carried the state by 600,000 — cemented his status as the gubernatorial frontrunner.   

Corbett has also made headlines for his successful prosecution of legislative corruption, known as the “Bonusgate” scandal, and more recently when he joined other Attorneys-General in supporting a lawsuit against the national health care law.

That success has contributed to a war chest of $4 million.

As a comparison, his opponent, State Representative Sam Rohrer, has raised $500,000, and had only $15,000 in the bank as of the last reporting period.

Rohrer, an 18 year veteran of the state house, touts himself as a constitutional conservative, while Corbett is anchoring his campaign on fiscal discipline, limited government, and free enterprise.

The Attorney General, endorsed by Republican State Committee, holds a commanding lead in the polls, but the Rohrer campaign believes it can win by mobilizing its grassroots machine. Rohrer is not seeking re-election to the House.

Freindly Fire: Despite the fact that Corbett has consistently campaigned on conservative principles, some Tea Partiers and other conservatives are backing Rohrer because of his conservative credentials. Yet Rohrer voted for the infamous unconstitutional payraise in 2005 — when legislators pocketed the money in that term — and voted to increase his pension by 50%.  Do you think some conservatives are giving him a free pass on these issues? Why?

Mike O’Connell:

Here we get to the politics of style versus substance.

For anyone familiar with Harrisburg, the notion that an eighteen-year-legislator, who cast the votes you just mentioned, and who was content to work with House leaders—including former Speaker John Perzel, bravely demonized by many on the Right now that he is no longer in power—is now somehow an outsider and political rebel is just silly.

That’s the substance.  The style is different:  what the “tea party” movement sees is a graduate of Bob Jones University—which it must be said is a pretty good first step in establishing one to be, or at least to have been at age eighteen, out of the political mainstream—who avers that he is an outsider is taken at face value by those who value outsider-ness . . . and to the degree the movement prides itself on not knowing what state government does, ignoring actual votes cast by a flesh-and-blood legislator is not only convenient but can be a badge of honor.

There is also frankly a measure of cynicism among some of Rohrer’s institutional supporters:  a wide array of conservative groups in Harrisburg….

Read the entire analysis at www.FreindlyFirezone.com

Link:

http://www.freindlyfirezone.com/index.php/component/k2/item/46-cutting-through-the-spin-a-frank-analysis-of-the-governor’s-race

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes numerous other television and radio appearances.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

, , , , , , , , , ,
May 11, 2010 at 8:06 am Comment (1)

Mercer County’s Legislators Respond To COLA Questions (or not)

State Representatives Michele Brooks and Mark Longietti respond to query . . . Senator Robbins and Representative Stevenson do not

Written by Roberta Biros

You all know how much I enjoy musical references, and today I’d like to refer to a great classic by one of my favorite artists . . . Meatloaf. Today’s musical reference is “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”. In our case, I have to modify the reference to be “Two Out of Four Ain’t Bad”.

What on earth am I referring to?

In general, the issue is COLAs . . . cost of living adjustments. Our state legislators typically receive an automatic cost of living adjustment on December 1st of each year . . . a gift provided by Act 51 legislation which went into effect in 1995. In December of 2008, the annual COLA was a 2.8% increase in the salaries of legislators, judges, and the Governor. Many of you may recall that last year the issue of pay raises was front page news. At that time, our legislators were quick to talk to local papers in an effort to get some free press, but only SOME of those same legislators were open to discussing the issue with Mercer County’s own political blogger (that’s me). In December of 2008, the legislators representing Mercer County all pledged to ‘give back’ their pay raises. I applauded them all for it. [you can read all of my posts about COLAs HERE]

In mid-November of 2009, it looked as though there would be another automatic pay raise on December 1st. I published a blog about the issue on December 1st and I contacted the legislators representing Mercer County about the issue [read the post HERE]. I was contacted by Representative Mark Longietti (D-7th) that morning. Rep. Longietti explained that the official word from Harrisburg was that there would be NO raise for legislators in 2009-2010. One question still remained, however . . . what did our legislators intend on doing with the 2.8% increase from last year?

Well it has been a month since I sent my original query to Senator Bob Robbins (R-50), Representative Michele Brooks (R-17), Representative Mark Longietti (D-7), and Representative Dick Stevenson (R-8). This year (just like last) I only received responses from SOME of the legislators that represent Mercer County. This year, only half of our legislators were interested in discussing the issue regarding their annual raise with an interested constituent. I suppose you could say that “two out of four ain’t bad”.

I’m a bit confused, though. With people clamoring for a constitutional convention in Pennsylvania in an effort to cut back our state legislature (read HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE) and voters (and ‘Tea Baggers’) seemingly annoyed with lazy incumbents and ‘business as usual’ in Harrisburg, you’d think that our legislators would be interested in staying in touch with interested voters. It appears, however, that if they aren’t getting press in a prestigious newspaper like The Herald (yes, that was tongue in cheek), then they simply aren’t interested in sharing their thoughts.

Let’s talk about the responses . . . or lack thereof.

WHO RESPONDED? (and how quickly):

Representative Mark Longietti (responded in 15 minutes)

I sent email messages to Senator Bob Robbins, Representative Michele Brooks, Representative Mark Longietti, and Representative Dick Stevenson. Within 15 minutes of sending my original email message, I received a phone call from Representative Mark Longietti. He was in his car on his way to Harrisburg and he decided to devote part of his drive time to a conversation with me regarding COLAs.

Representative Longietti explained first that there would be no COLA in 2009-2010, but he also explained that the 2008-2009 COLA that was received last year will still be included in his check in 2009-2010. Last year (when asked the same question), Representative Longietti explained that he would be donating the amount of his raise to a local charity. This year, Representative Longietti still intends on donating the amount of the 2008-2009 raise to a charity. This year his specific charity is again his local church where he has made a donation (with a specific earmark for the use of funds).

Representative Longietti and I also discussed the process of receiving automatic cost of living adjustments. Representative Longietti and I had a similar discussion last year at this time, and we both realize that we are on opposite ends of the issue as far as our personal opinions. Representative Longietti feels that a COLA is an earned increase and is well deserved. He feels that a cost of living increase simply makes him “whole” as it raises his pay automatically each year to adjust with the increases in the cost of living. Unfortunately, having worked in the private sector for my entire adult life, I don’t agree with the concept. I’ve worked for many different companies during many very difficult times in our economy, and there were quite a few years where I received no such raise regardless of the increase in the cost of living. Raises were based on performance (primarily), and the company’s ability to provide a raise (as a secondary consideration). I, therefore, don’t agree with anything that is assigned “automatically”. Representative Longietti and I have long agreed to disagree on this particular issue, but the conversation was interesting and entertaining. I thanked him for his time and I thanked him for taking the time to call me amidst his busy schedule.

Representative Michele Brooks (responded in one day)

On December 2nd (one day after receiving my email message), I received an email response from Representative Michele Brooks. She stated that she would be giving me a call to discuss the matter of COLAs personally as soon as time permitted. During our phone conversation, Representative Brooks pointed out that in both 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 she returned her COLA to the State Treasury as a direct one-time payment. Although she will not be receiving a raise in 2009-2010, she still intends on ‘giving back’ her raise from 2008-2009. This year, however, she intends on donating the raise to a local charity. Rather than handing the money back to the State Treasury (like last year), Representative Brooks would like to see “100% of the funds make a difference in the local community”. Although she did not name the charity specifically (and I didn’t ask), Representative Brooks was pleased that raise could help a local group directly.

THANK YOU REPRESENTATIVES MARK LONGIETTI AND MICHELE BROOKS

First, a much deserved APPLAUSE! My opinion on COLA give backs is the same as it was 12 months ago. I don’t care how the money is returned, but giving the money back to ‘the people’ is the most important issue and it should be applauded because it is COMPLETELY voluntary on the part of our legislators. In my opinion, both Representatives Longietti and Brooks EARNED their raises (unlike some of our State Legislators . . . or the Governor). It is their money and they can do with it what they wish. The fact that they are willing to give those raises back to people and organizations in Mercer County that NEED the help is honorable.

I would also like to thank Representatives Longietti and Brooks for responding to my inquiry . . . and VERY quickly I might add. It is refreshing to see that there are legislators representing Mercer County that try to make a difference (even when it isn’t front page news). While “Mercer Conservatives” may be seen as the “opinions of one blogger” in the eyes of some, this blog is representative of the voices of many conservatives and independents who support good government, transparency, and refreshing reform in Harrisburg and Mercer County. I am always willing to share “good news about good government” with my friends throughout Mercer County and across Pennsylvania.

WHO RESPONDED . . . BUT DIDN’T RESPOND?

Representative Dick Stevenson

Last year, Representative Stevenson explained to the local press that he would be returning his raise to the Pennsylvania Treasury. What happened this year?

Two days after receiving my email message, Representative Dick Stevenson sent me a response to my original email query. His email message read as follows:

Ms. Biros:
As I indicated previously, and as I have confirmed with our caucus ethics counsel after he reviewed your message, I am prohibited from responding to political emails from this taxpayer funded email account. If your would like to discuss these or any other issues, my home phone number is 724-XXX-XXXX.

Why are we suddenly so formal? Representatives Longietti and Brooks (a.k.a. Mark and Michele) simply call me “Roberta”, and that is generally my preference. “Ms. Biros” is my mother-in-laws name, and it is so ‘old fashioned’. It seems perfectly used, however, if you intended to set the tone for me to be scolded.

As many of you already know, Representative Stevenson has a history of sending these types of messages. Last year he sent a similar message by snail mail on his House of Representatives letterhead [READ THE FULL STORY HERE], and the comments received statewide criticisms. Just like last time, I was annoyed with the response. I sent an email message back to Representative Stevenson as follows:

First, all of the questions that I posed to you are regarding policies and legislative issues. The questions are specifically related to your record, your plans for representing Mercer County, and your legislative activities. If every email that is sent to you regarding policies and legislative issues is considered to be “political”; and you are, therefore, prohibited from responding, then what exactly is the purpose of your “taxpayer funded email account”?

Secondly, I provided sufficient contact information that you could have responded to my query in any other form other than email if you were interested. I invited you to respond to my message by email, phone, mail, or personal visit. Instead, you took the time ONLY to tell me that you can’t answer my question unless I call you.

While you could technically say that Representative Stevenson responded to my email message, I would clearly disagree. His only purpose of writing was to tell me to “go away and don’t come back”. He never responded to my questions regarding COLAs . . . he just said “I won’t talk to you”. I, therefore, classify Representative Stevenson’s response as a “non-response”.

WHO DID NOT RESPOND . . . PERIOD?

Senator Bob Robbins

Last year Senator Robbins took advantage of the local papers to publicize the fact that he was returning his raise. He did not respond to MY inquiry regarding COLAs until mid-January. At that time he sent a letter. Unfortunately, his written response had nothing to do with my original questions [read the full story HERE].

What is the fine Senator up to this year?

I’m sure this will shock many of my regular readers, but Senator Bob Robbins once again failed to respond to my inquiry in any way, shape, or form. Senator Robbins generally doesn’t like to talk to “the press”, so the chance of him responding to a little ol’ blogger like me is about nil. Unfortunately for our fine Senator, Mr. Robbins fails to realize that this blogger is also a VOTER with many FRIENDS (Republican, Democrat, and Independent) THAT VOTE. His repeated lack of responses (now and in the past) have been noted in my little brain . . . and in the brains of my friends. I’m a bit like an elephant . . . I never forget! (No GOP pun intended)

What does it all mean?

The good news for Mercer Countians is that we have hard-working legislators who care about the community, the taxpayers, and our best interests. Those legislators are willing to communicate with ALL OF THEIR CONSTITUENTS regardless of ‘Party’ and without the promise of ‘front page billing’. Those legislators are Representatives Michele Brooks and Mark Longietti.

The bad news for Mercer Countians is that we have an equal number of legislators who aren’t willing to communicate . . . aren’t willing to answer questions . . . and, apparently, don’t feel that the opinions of voters and taxpayers are important. Those legislators are unwilling to take the time to discuss policy unless they have a promise of publication on the front page above the fold. Those legislators are Senator Bob Robbins and Representative Dick Stevenson.

What’s Next, Roberta?

Gosh. I sure am glad you asked!

That was the story about COLAs. It was a short story, but an interesting one nonetheless. It is also a wonderful start to a New Year. It sets the stage for some interesting debate and some entertaining analyses. It is, however, just the beginning. In the next few weeks I will be publishing a number of stories regarding Mercer County’s legislators (and other elected officials). As a Mercer County EXCLUSIVE, I will be publishing the First Annual Edition of the Mercer Conservatives Index. The Mercer Conservatives Index will grade each of our elected officials on their accomplishments, service, and their ability to represent Mercer Countians. You might be surprised to see how Mercer County’s politicians stack up against each other . . . apples to apples.
As always, just my opinion.

~Mercer County Conservatives

.

January 4, 2010 at 5:32 am Comments (0)

Small Constitutional Victory for Buckwalter, Phoenixville & PA

The PA Supreme Court made a decision today defending the Commonwealth Constitution. While it is not earthshattering, it is a nice, modest case study of a public servant doing the right thing even when it did not serve his short-term political interests.

Back in 2006, Phoenixville’s Borough Council tried to eliminate the compensation of its members. It was political grandstanding, as the Borough faced a multi-million dollar budgetary shortfall, and the total annual compensation of all of them was less than twenty grand. Kendrick Buckwalter, a councilman, realized 1) That this was unconstitutional, and 2) Would establish a precedent for Council to change compensation levels in the middle of their terms, theoretically permitting them to RAISE their pay as well.

Buckwalter sued, with the help of local attorney Richard Breuer. This is despite the fact that it would make it look like Ken was suing to keep his $200/month before facing reelection during the year of the Harrisburg pay raise debacle. Thankfully, he did end up winning reelection.

But pursuing the case made his reelection more difficult. Ken did it because it was the right thing to do, not because it made his life any easier. The Supreme Court in Kendrick Buckwalter v. Borough of Phoenixville has concurred that he was right all along.

A small victory, sure. But any victory defending the Constitution is one to be applauded, especially when someone puts their political position on the line to do it.

Coverage in the local paper here.

Congratulate Ken at his blog here.

, ,
December 31, 2009 at 1:55 pm Comments (0)

How Many of You Are Getting a Pay Raise Today? . . . This Month? . . . This Year?

Written by Roberta Biros

BLOG POST UPDATE–CORRECTION:

After contacting my local legislators I received a phone call from Representative Mark Longietti. Rep. Longietti first clarified that there will be NO COLA this year for legislators. The final calculation was made in mid-November, and that calculation determined that there would be NO increase this year. This information was contrary to the details that I had received in mid-November. PLEASE TAKE THIS INFORMATION INTO CONSIDERATION WHEN READING THIS BLOG POST. The issue still remains, however, regarding the pay raise that was automatically applied last year and how to handle possible pay increases in the future. [END NOTE]

Today is December 1, 2009. Today is also the day that Pennsylvania Legislators, Judges, and the Governor receive an automatic increase in their salary. Nice huh?

Background

In 1995, Pennsylvania legislators passed a law (ACT 51) that established cost of living increases (referred to as COLAs) for themselves and other state officials, including the governor and judges. On December 1st of every year since 1995, lawmakers and other officials in Pennsylvania have received the benefit of an automatic pay raise based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

It is my understanding that some “upstanding” legislators have voluntarily given back their pay raises back in previous years because they felt it was “the right thing to do”, but the topic of “COLA givebacks” was never so publicized as it was last year at this time. I first wrote about the issue in mid-December in 2008 in my blog post titled “Michele Brooks Gives Back Legislative Pay Raise, but Can More Be Done To Really Save Money in Harrisburg?“, I then wrote about the topic multiple times throughout the spring and summer in an effort to generate support for a repeal of the COLA legislation. All of my posts regarding COLAs can be read HERE.

Where Did Mercer County Legislators Stand on COLAs in 2008?

I corresponded with all of the Legislators that represent Mercer County numerous times last year. Here is where they stood on the issues of Legislative COLAs.

Senator Bob Robbins (R-50)

Did he give his 2008-2009 COLA back to the State?

Yes.

Did he support the repeal of the COLAs?

I received a letter from Senator Robbins last January. In it he explained the issues that he would be concentrating on in 2009, but the repeal of legislative COLAs was not on the list. It should be pointed out that he never states that he is AGAINST the COLAs (or against their repeal) . . . he simply never stated that he would support their repeal.

Representative Mark Longietti (D-7)

Did he give his 2008-2009 COLA back to the State?

No. Instead, he had donated his raise for that period to the Joshua’s Haven City Mission in Sharon.

Did he support the repeal of the COLAs?

No. I spoke to Rep. Longietti regarding the issue of COLAs and COLA repeal by phone and we communicated by email. As per Mr. Longietti’s email response from January of 2008,
“I respect your view regarding the COLA, but I do not think that repealing it is good public policy. ”

Mr. Longietti further stated,

“If the COLA is repealed, you will eventually see bills introduced to provide for a large pay increase. That is the wrong approach. Further, you will subject the whole process to deal making.”

Mr. Longietti went on to state numerous examples where cost of living increases are implemented and he closed with,

“I work hard as a legislator, and I know that I earn my keep, and an increase to keep pace with inflation is as justified for this position as it is for other workers and for Social Security recipients. So, we may part company on this issue, but we respect each other’s point of view.”

[I will refer to Representative Longietti’s comments again later in this post]

Rep. Dick Stevenson (R-8)

Did he give his 2008-2009 COLA back to the State?

Yes.

Did he support the repeal of the COLAs?

Yes.

Although I never discussed the issue with Rep. Stevenson personally, I followed his record on the issue. Representative Stevenson signed on to House Bill 62 in January of 2009. House Bill 62 (read the full text of the Bill HERE) was a bill that was intended to offer a long term plan for the handling of legislative COLAs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very good bill. I wrote a blog outlining the details of all COLA repeal Bills HERE (if you are interested).

Rep. Michele Brooks (R-17)

Did she give her 2008-2009 COLA back to the State?

Yes.

Did she support the repeal of the COLAs?

Yes.

I discussed the issues of COLAs and COLA repeal with Rep. Brooks on numerous occasions both by phone and by email. Rep. Brooks signed on to House Bill 633 in February of 2008. House Bill 633 (read the full text of the Bill HERE) rewrote the handling of legislator raises. I wrote about the details of HB 633 (and others) at length HERE (if you are interested).

Were Legislative COLAs Repealed in 2009?

Heck No!

It is true that there were numerous Bills offered by Legislators in an attempt to repeal COLAs, but NONE of those Bills ever made it out of committee. This is a VERY COMMON PROBLEM with Bills authored in the PA legislature. In my blog posted titled “So Much Legislation, So Little Time”, I explained that roughly 95% of all Bills that are presented in Harrisburg “die” in Committee. COLA Repeal Bills all fell into the 95% group in 2009. That hasn’t prevented legislators from continuing to try. As recently as mid-November, new legislation was being authored in Harrisburg. On November 16, Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks) introduced House Bill 2097 which attempted to suspend the December 1 pay raises. In her official press release (read HERE), Rep. Quinn states:

“We have an unemployment rate approaching 9 percent in Pennsylvania, and many people who still have jobs have taken pay cuts,” said Quinn. “It is common sense to suspend the COLA for legislators during these tough economic times. How can we accept a pay increase during a year when we have cut so much from the budget and so many others must do with less or with nothing at all?”

Even more interesting, though, Rep. Quinn makes a great point when she states:

“If Pennsylvania’s elderly citizens are expected to go without a Social Security COLA this year, then lawmakers should be expected to do the same”

The statement regarding Social Security COLAs is an important one. According to the Social Security Administration website (read the full press release HERE):

With consumer prices down over the past year, monthly Social Security and supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 57 million Americans will not automatically increase in 2010. This will be the first year without an automatic Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) since they went into effect in 1975.

Why is this so important? Well, individuals who have defended the continued use of COLAs for legislators have specifically pointed out that the raises are “deserved” just like the COLAs that are applied to Social Security. Remember . . . According to Representative Mark Longietti,

“I work hard as a legislator, and I know that I earn my keep, and an increase to keep pace with inflation is as justified for this position as it is for other workers and for Social Security recipients.”

As the economy gets worse, the term “automatic raises” or “raises” (in general) are going to become obsolete. Legislators may feel that their raises are still “well deserved”, but the truth is that many of their constituents are lucky to just have a job or steady income at this point. Businesses are cutting back, individuals are cutting back, and it’s time for our legislators to feel the pain too.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So here we are again . . . back at the beginning. As of today Legislators, the Governor, and Judges will receive an automatic pay raise. It seemed inappropriate last year, but this year “inappropriate” just doesn’t seem harsh enough. Maybe the term WRONG or even CRIMINAL would better describe the situation?

Last year I took an enormous amount of time and effort to contact those legislators that represent Mercer County in an effort to urge all of them to not only give back their COLAs, but to urge them to support legislation that would end the COLAs once and for all. I will begin my efforts again. This morning I sent email messages to Senator Bob Robbins, Representative Dick Stevenson, Representative Mark Longietti, and Representative Michele Brooks. In it I’ve asked if each of them will again “give back” their annual pay raise. I have also asked that all of them support efforts to repeal COLAs through legislative action. My full messages is outlined below:

Senator Bob Robbins
Representative Mark Longietti
Representative Michele Brooks
Representative Dick Stevenson

Good Morning,

Today is December 1st. Today, cost of living adjustments (COLAs) were applied to your annual salaries automatically. Last year I spent a great amount of time and effort in following up with each of you regarding your “give back” of last year’s raises as well as urging each of you to support a repeal of Act 51 to prevent the continuation of the COLAs again this year. Some of you voluntarily gave your raises back to the state through a direct payment to the Treasury, and others donated your raises to a
local charity. I thanked each of you directly for those actions. I also asked each of you to support a repeal of Act 51 through numerous legislative efforts. Some of you signed on to legislation that attempted to repeal or alter Act 51, others chose to concentrate on other projects, and yet others felt that Act 51 was fine “as is” because annual pay raises are deserved “as it is for other workers and for Social Security recipients”.

I urge each of you to review the issue of legislative COLAs once again. Are
automatic pay raises for legislators, judges, and the governor fair when so many Pennsylvanians are taking pay cuts, struggling to make ends meet, or even worse . . . out of work? Are pay increases for “public servants” really fair when the majority of those you “serve” (including senior citizens) are forced to do without? Is it really right for lawmakers to put themselves above the people that they were elected to serve?

I am sure that you are all aware that each and every one of you is up for re-election in 2010. I am sure that you also understand that everything that you do this year will be under a microscope. Some of you may see this as a problem or an inconvenience, but I would hope that some of you see this as an opportunity to shine and to showcase your commitment to the people of the area. Show your constituents in Mercer County that you are committed to “serving” rather than “being served”. Put aside partisan politics and make this an issue of good government and concern for fiscal responsibility.

My Questions For You:

I would like to know your personal plan for doing away with “automatic pay raises for some while others are forced to live with less”.

Do you intend on refusing your COLA this year (as well as the carry-over raise from last year)?

Are you willing to work to see to it that this is not an issue again next year?

What are you willing to do . . . specifically?

I, personally, cannot and will not support any candidate that puts themselves above the people that they serve, and I sincerely believe that most voters would agree. So where exactly do you stand?

Roberta Biros
Taxpayer in Mercer County
Taxpayer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Concerned Citizen

I urge each and every one of you to write your legislators, call your legislators, email your legislators and ask them to give back their December 1 pay raise and ask them to support the permanent repeal of future automatic pay raises.

If we yell loud enough and long enough, maybe someone will finally stop and listen.

BLOG POST UPDATE–FEEDBACK:

December 1, 2009, 10:30am:

The first legislator to contact me was Representative Mark Longietti (D-7). As I stated earlier, Reprsentative Longietti clarified that there is NO COLA this year for legislators. Rep. Longietti and I then discussed the issue of COLAs at great length. First, Representative Longietti has already decided that he will donate his LAST YEAR’s pay raise (which will be received automatically again this year) to his local church (with a specific earmark regarding its usage). In regards to a repeal or rework of Act 51 and COLAs in general, Representative Longietti and I still disagree on how raises should be applied to lawmakers. We, again, agree to disagree. I thank Representative Longietti for his time and quick response.

As always, just my opinion.

Roberta Biros, Mercer County Conservatives

December 1, 2009 at 10:22 am Comments (0)

Philadelphia Center-Right Coalition Nov. 12 (Norquist/Freind)

Friends,

I am pleased to inform you that Philadelphia has been selected to host a monthly Center-Right Coalition meeting, following the hugely-successful model of Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). We will be one of the few non-state capital cities to have such a gathering.

The kick-off meeting, which I will be hosting, will be Thursday, November 12 at the Union League in Philadelphia, with Mr. Norquist in attendance. Light refreshments will be served at 7:00 AM, with the program going from 7:30 to 9:00. The Union League is located at 140 S. Broad Street, just two blocks south of City Hall.

In Grover’s words, the objective is “to get everybody who is center-right to tell each other what they are doing, to share technology and tactics, and to tell stories” regarding issues facing Pennsylvania and the nation.

One key function, according to ATR, is to facilitate collaborative activities of coalition members, many of whom may have not previously known one another, and foster the potential for mutual cooperation.

The rules are simple: Anyone who so desires may speak for three minutes on current initiatives, answer questions, and pass the microphone to the next speaker.

The only prohibition is whining. It is a positive meeting, one that will unify southeastern Pennsylvania.

Attendees will typically include influential political, business, policy and grassroots leaders.

If anyone who would like several minutes on the agenda, please let me know.

You are encouraged to bring any literature for distribution.

I hope to see you next Thursday.

For future reference, the monthly meetings will be held on the FIRST THURSDAY of each month at the Union League, with the same time format as above.

Feel free to invite colleagues and associates. All meetings are off the record.

Steadfast,

Christopher Freind
“Freindly Fire”
Audaces fortuna iuvat
610-659-0098
christopherfreind@hotmail.com (E before I in Freind)
CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

, , , , , , ,
November 2, 2009 at 12:28 pm Comments (0)

Using Budget Negotiations to Push Through Legislation

Written by Roberta Biros

With the budget deadline of June 30th only two short weeks away, the negotiations should start getting very interesting, and I’m hopeful that ALL options will eventually make their way to the table. Perhaps this is the time for forward-thinking legislators to start pulling out the stops . . . bring out every cost saving measure now while they have a chance of receiving public attention. Use the budget crisis (and panic) to bring attention to legislation that has the capability of cutting costs in other ways. It is going to happen on both sides of the aisle, so EVERYONE should exploit this opportunity.

This morning I heard that the issue of expanding casino gambling in Pennsylvania into table games has been thrown out as a possible income generator (in lieu of tax increases). Another idea that is being tossed around nationally is the legalization of marijuana as a possible new tax revenue for States. These are just two of MANY ideas that will float around Harrisburg over the coming weeks. Perhaps fiscal conservatives need to take advantage of the dire situation to come up with a few solutions of their own.

One particular issue comes to mind for me . . . the elimination of COLAs for lawmakers. I know . . . I’ve been beating this ‘dead horse’ for months, but maybe now is the time that ‘this horse’ gets up and starts running again. There are a number of House Bills floating around that outline the elimination of cost of living adjustments (COLAs), and I’ve written extensively about all of them HERE. House Bill 633 (my personal favorite), has been sitting in the House RULES Committee for months. This might be the perfect time to resurrect a cost cutting measure like the limitation of future raises for lawmakers in an effort to trim a little more spending from that bloated budget.

This might be the perfect time to pull out any issue that cuts costs . . . no matter how much. Why? Because EVERY LITTLE BIT WILL HELP. Even minor cost cuts add up when they are combined together. I’ve heard numerous suggestions of ways that Legislators could cut costs within their own offices, and maybe now is a time to make all of those ideas public too. I always hear constant complaints that individual cost cutting ideas only account for some “minimal” amount of money, but if you implement enough of them you can make a significant impact across the board. Besides, it would be great to see some good will gestures coming from Harrisburg too.

I’ve said it before, and it doesn’t cost me anything to repeat it again . . . NOTHING SHOULD BE OFF THE TABLE during this budget negotiation. EVERYTHING should be up for discussion! Democrats and Republicans are going to use the budget to negotiate all of their pet projects, so I see no reason why fiscal conservatives shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon in an effort to push through some of their “pet projects” too.

.

June 16, 2009 at 11:36 am Comments (0)

« Older Posts