The following Guest Opinion appeared this morning in the Bucks County Courier Times from Jerry Schenkman, a Newtown Township supervisor, attorney, and business owner.
The recent Guest Opinion comparing the candidates hoping to succeed state Rep. Dave Steil, R-31, was long on hyperbole, and short on facts.
Both Steve Santarsiero and Pete Stainthorpe are supervisors in Lower Makefield. I know them both. They are decent men. They have both pledged to “clean up Harrisburg.” While a thankless task, voters have to make a choice about who they believe will do a better job tackling this chronic problem, and not just using it as a slogan for the campaign. A look at each man’s public history on government reforms is important to making this decision.
Santarsiero and Stainthorpe both denounced House Democratic Majority Leader Bill DeWeese for the alleged use of taxpayer money for campaign activities by his staff. Stainthorpe has called for his resignation, and Santarsiero has stated that he would not support DeWeese for any leadership position. DeWeese is a Democrat, so as a Republican, Stainthorpe could not vote for or against him. It is political opportunism to call for resignation when he has no voice in the matter.
On the other hand, Santarsiero will have the vote against DeWeese, and his standing up to this abuse of authority could have direct consequences for him. Should DeWeese repeat as majority leader, Santarsiero would pay the price. His position takes courage. Stainthorpe’s position is political theater. Further, Santarsiero has supported Penn CPR, a 12-point reform plan that aims to accomplish three main goals: 1) Elimination of the “perk lifestyle;” 2) Removing the influence of special interest lobbyists; and 3) Making the campaign finance system more open and accountable. Stainthorpe has not indicated support for this aggressive reform, most notably the elimination of perks.
Let’s also look at actions as opposed to just words. The very day that Stainthorpe called for DeWeese’s resignation (July 17), former House Speaker John Perzel hosted a major fund raiser for him in Yardley. Perzel, you may recall, was the chief architect for the “midnight pay raise” in 2005. This cost him the support of many Republicans in his re-election to House Speaker in 2007. Even Rep. Steil turned away from him, and refused his support.
So, what is a discredited pol like Perzel doing with his arm around Stainthorpe, and putting cash in his pocket? He is a symbol of the broken system of privilege and callous indifference in Harrisburg that needs to end. Stainthorpe was happy to have his friend Perzel help him, and has been silent about how he would vote in party caucus should he seek leadership again. That is the fair comparison that must be made by the voters. What has each candidate said about his party’s leadership in Harrisburg? Santarsiero is unequivocal that he will not vote for DeWeese. Stainthorpe has said nothing about Perzel.
There are other indications of how Santarsiero and Stainthorpe differ in their views of responsible government. When Lower Makefield was choosing members of boards and commissions that required board of supervisor votes, Stainthorpe opposed public interviews of the candidates, and voted against public access to this information (January 2004 Bucks County Courier Times editorial).
Santarsiero called for interviews to be done in public. Similarly, Santarsiero proposed and worked for televised supervisor meetings so residents would be better informed about township business. Stainthorpe made no effort to televise meetings in the two years he was a supervisor before Santarsiero was elected. Further, Stainthorpe is the only candidate in Lower Makefield who takes health care benefits at taxpayer expense.
Santarsiero forgoes those perks, and has declined his salary as a supervisor because of the tight municipal budget. Who better understands the realities of our economic slowdown, an elected official who takes no salary nor benefits from his job because of his concern for the costs involved on the pocketbooks of his neighbors, or someone who does, despite his claim to be a successful businessman?
What is past is prologue. Past behavior is the clearest indication of how someone will behave in the future. Past acts speak louder than political sound bites.
It is time to hold our candidates accountable for their words and deeds. A full review of these gentlemen demonstrates that Steve Santarsiero has been, and will continue to be, an exemplary public servant. He deserves our support.
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