Category Archives: Local govt & politics

Promises, promises

Here’s my current favorite campaign promise, from at least two West Chester Borough Council candidates’ mailers: Balanced budgets without raising taxes (their emphasis).

Well, great. Who could oppose that? If anyone knew that secret, think how much better things would go in Harrisburg and Washington!

Some candidates promise to secure outside funding for important local projects. If anyone knew that secret, think how much better things would go in every county and municipality across the country!

Then candidates promise “openness” and “transparency”; I’m not quite sure how that goes beyond the state’s excellent Sunshine Act and Right to Know regulations.

It’s already illegal for an elected body to make decisions in secret (with some limited exceptions like personnel matters). The public can already contact their officials, attend meetings, and make comments at the meetings before a vote is taken. Transparency and openness are strongly in place; the public just has to care.

And of course candidates are all going to meet regularly with their future constituents, respect all opinions, and answer all emails. All I can say is: winners who don’t follow through deserve public critique.

And they are all trustworthy, public-spirited folks who want to make a difference and give back to their community (two of my least favorite expressions).

In many cases, someone in a party office or outside organization (thanks to the wisdom of the Roberts court) writes these flyers up and sends out variants on behalf of their favored candidates.

But very few candidates mention their party affiliation or what outside organizations support them. Some, after they win the election, truly listen to constituents, learn on the job, and exercise independent judgment; some (as we see all too often in Washington) don’t know how, don’t care, or don’t dare.

I’m a detail person myself. In my view:

1) Comparison shop, and if 2+ candidates use the same wording, it’s probably not their own;

2) In a local election, candidates are often at the polls asking for your vote. And they should be! Their mailers and flyers have told you what they want to do; now ask them how they are going to carry out their promises and where the money is going to come from–before you go in to vote.

3) Ask candidates if they agree or disagree with their own party’s standard positions on issues important to you.

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Filed under 2013 election, Local govt & politics, Nathaniel Smith

Chester County voter registrations by party, 1998-2012

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 1/6/13

After some calculating from PA Department of State online files, I figured out the Chesco voter registration by party since 1998:

In the line chart, the red line shows Republican registration, blue Dem, and yellow Other. The square dots show alternating general and primary elections.

Chesco Voter reg 1998-2012 chart

From November, 1998, through November, 2007, there was a slow rise in the Dem %, with a slight upward bump for the general election of 2004 (Kerry v. Bush). Also in 2004, there was a bump up for Others and down for R’s, suggesting perhaps some anti-Bush movement.

Dem registration continued its slow rise (perhaps this rising baseline is due to demographic factors) and then took a large jump with the primary (Obama v. Clinton) and general (Obama v. McCain) elections of 2008. Both R’s and Others contributed to that D jump.

Since then, the D and R numbers and (next chart) the D to R ratio year by year have been quite stable. …

Chesco D:R ratio 1998-2012keep reading text and see underlying data at Politics: A View from West Chester

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Filed under Local govt & politics, Nathaniel Smith

Pa. doesn’t need more big, bad bureaucracies

Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/5/10
Small, local governments are the best in the state.

By Michael Pakenham

A governance grab is afoot in Pennsylvania. If approved by the state legislature, it would constitute the most volatile graft accelerant since the plain brown envelope.

It would balloon the payrolls of the state’s 67 counties. It would obliterate more than 2,500 local governments. And it would generate massive new state and county agencies.

If you have never been terrified by gobbledygook, you haven’t read the title of the state Senate’s version of the proposal: “An Act amending Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, creating the Boundary Review Commission; providing for municipal dissolutions, incorporations, annexations, mergers and consolidations; and making an appropriation.” The House’s is even scarier.

The grab is contained in Senate Bill 1357 and House Bill 2431. Its intent is to decapitate and bury local governance.

Though the legislation has received little attention, it is a serious threat. One bill is sponsored by six senators, the other by 13 representatives. They argue for efficiency, concentration, simplification, and other platitudinous notions unsupported by fact. Their campaign goes back years in one form or another.

The bills’ supporters contend that local government is inefficient, unprofessional, and costly. The facts refute that. In the 20 years since the Financially Distressed Municipalities Act was passed, not even 1 percent of Pennsylvania’s municipalities have sought state protection. Meanwhile, big governments all over the state – and the biggest, the state itself – are in or teetering on the brink of bankruptcy….

keep reading at Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/5/10

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Filed under Local govt & politics, PA govt & politics

Packer PA vs. Corbett and Corporate Sludge

Subject: CELDF – Packer Township Wins Round One in Suit/Puts Forward New Ordinance Rejecting State Preemption
by email, Apr 8, 2010

An update on Packer Township in Pennsylvania. In 2008, we worked with Packer Township to draft and adopt an ordinance banning corporations from spreading sludge in the community.

In 2009, the state Attorney General – on behalf of corporations – sued the township to overturn the ordinance, arguing that the community doesn’t have the authority to adopt a local law on sewage sludge. The lawsuit was anticipated and CELDF is representing the township in court.

Several weeks ago, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued a ruling rejecting the state’s request for summary judgment – meaning that the court did not agree with the AG that the case was clear cut and that the township’s ordinance should be overturned. We expect the case to go to trial later this year – focusing on the key questions of whether sludging of farmland constitutes a direct threat to human health and safety, and whether the land application of sludge is a “normal” agricultural practice.

Not waiting for a court ruling, earlier this week, Packer Township advertised a new ordinance which would enable the community to adopt environmental standards that are stronger than state standards, rejecting state preemption of environmental protections set by the community. Continue reading

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Filed under Environment, Energy, Science, Local govt & politics, PA govt & politics