The Rehabilitation of Jim Cawley?

January 16, 2015

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(Note: For a lot of reasons, my typical posting activity is going to be greatly constrained, but I hope to be able to post periodically on selected topics. We’ll see.)

This story (sourced from a recent edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer) tells us the following…

PHILADELPHIA, Jan., 13, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Jim Cawley has been named president and chief executive officer of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ), effective February 9. The announcement was made by Lon Greenberg, chairman, UGI Corporation/AmeriGas and chair of UWGPSNJ’s regional Board of Directors, following a six-month national search.

“The Board was determined to identify a leader who demonstrated a commitment to serving the community and carrying out our mission, and who possessed the ability to build relationships, engender trust in the community and generate results. We considered a wide cross section of candidates, and Jim was the clear choice,” says Greenberg. “He has spent the majority of his career in the service of others, both regionally and nationally, developing productive relationships and leading large groups of constituents to success. As lieutenant governor, he also has a unique understanding of how United Way’s Impact areas connect, and how strategic improvements in Education, Income and Health can lift the entire region.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter endorsed the Board’s selection. “Jim Cawley is a great guy and a fantastic public servant. I truly enjoyed working with him when he was a County Commissioner in Bucks County, in part because he always displayed a regional perspective on issues. He understood that we are one Philadelphia region with one common future,” says Mayor Nutter. “As lieutenant governor, Jim Cawley was always available and always listened when my team and I needed to discuss issues related to legislation or economic development projects. He is a great friend to Philadelphia and the Commonwealth and he cares passionately. I know that he will do a terrific job in his new position at the helm of United Way.”

“A great guy”? “A fantastic public servant”? Did I miss a memo or something?

Gosh, that’s not the Jim Cawley I remember from his days as a Bucks County Commissioner.

To wit…

  • As noted here, Cawley once said that he was “far from somebody who is rooting for the (Democratic) economic stimulus package” here (of course, forget for a moment the myriad benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as noted in the post.
  • He also supported so-called “right to work” legislation here (should REALLY be called right not to be paid a living wage – first bullet; by the way, it turns out that Richard Yuengling Jr., head of the PA beer company, supports it also as noted here…a shame to have to give up that brand now since I enjoy it).
  • This includes a veritable potpourri of bad governing decisions here that you can file under the heading of lack of transparency (with the Bucks commissioners, including Cawley at that time, refusing to provide more information on hiring and firing decisions, a budget being constructed which supposedly held the line on tax increases with no feedback from the county commissioners, again including Cawley…oh, and the entire fiasco over moving the voting location from the Creekside Apartments in Bensalem, PA in an effort to hurt Democratic electoral turnout also happened while Cawley was a Bucks commissioner, let’s not forget).
  • And of course, it’s “full steam ahead, water-on-fire-be-damned” when it comes to Cawley and fracking as noted here (4th bullet).
  • In addition to the Creekside fiasco, this tells us how Cawley made sure that about $400 grand of taxpayer dough in Bucks went to a golf course (hardly economically stimulative as opposed to true shovel-ready projects); we also learn that Cawley helped to steer about $200 an hour in legal services to the Langhorne, PA firm of Begley, Carlin & Mandio (which had given $142,000 to county Republicans and commissioner campaigns in the past seven years), and on that same day that the firm received the award, six of the firm’s attorneys contributed $9,000 to the county GOP, according to an analysis by the Democrats (last bullet).
  • Also, here is a reminder that Cawley may have had a hand in the supposed “third-party” candidacy of one Jay Russell in his run for a post as Bucks County Commissioner (think Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000 – Russell worked at a hardware store and apparently had no political experience), as noted in the comments from here. That ordinarily would not be a big deal, but that year, Russell ended up siphoning off just enough votes to prevent Steve Santarsiero from being elected as a commissioner and giving the board a Democratic majority.
  • Oh, and by the way, I couldn’t find anything in the prnewswire story about Cawley’s compensation for his new non-profit job.

    All of this makes me take an even dimmer view of United Way than the one I already have (here) – probably a lot more worthwhile charities to donate to, especially with a toad like Cawley running the local branch of this outfit.


    Tuesday Mashup (9/28/10)

    September 29, 2010

  • 1) The Bucks County Courier Time informed us of the following yesterday (here)…

    Pennsylvania should be considering right to work legislation to make the state more competitive in the current economic climate, said Bucks County Commissioner Jim Cawley.

    The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Cawley has expressed that point of view while campaigning in parts of Pennsylvania. He can be seen in an online video at the Altoona First Festival in Blair County with a tea party member who asks his position on the Right to Work Act.

    “The last thing we need to do is put more impediments and demands on the expenses we face,” Cawley says in the video, which can be viewed on YouTube.com. “Right to work legislation is something that its time has come.”

    Water wet, sky blue, teabaggers are really Republicans in search of a political convention and/or an angry mob (assuming they don’t constitute one themselves) – this is a recording, I know.

    This Wikipedia article gives us at least two reasons why the “right to work” movement is yet another triumph of right-wing propaganda: 1) In 2003 the rate of workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers was highest in right-to-work states, and 2) Opponents argue right-to-work laws create a “free-rider” problem, in which non-union employees (who are bound by the terms of the union contract even though they are not members of the union) benefit from collective bargaining without paying union dues – to say nothing of the fact that the “right to work” movement is sponsored by right-wing groups anyway, of course.

    Meanwhile, Cawley’s fellow supervisor Diane Marseglia does the right thing again (here)…

    As Bucks County officials prepare to solicit bids to build a new courthouse, Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia is making another push for an agreement that would require contractors on the project to follow union rules and policies.

    The project labor agreement Marseglia wants has been a source of controversy since the early discussion about the Justice Center project took place in 2004.

    The board of commissioners’ Republican majority say they have explored and rejected the possibility of using a PLA or similar requirements, and Commissioners Charley Martin and Jim Cawley said they won’t support one now.

    Even if the political support existed for a PLA on the Justice Center, putting it in place now would delay the project by months, Bucks County Purchasing Director Maureen McIlvaine said.

    “When other people have done this, it has taken months and months and months to hammer out the details of the labor agreement,” McIlvaine said.

    As Blue Mass Group tells us here, however…

    A Project Labor Agreement is a trade-off between the project owner…and the people building the project. Basically, the (county) agrees to hire all workers on the project through specified union halls, and non-union workers have to pay union dues while on the project. In exchange, the (county) gets a guarantee of labor peace – no strikes, slowdowns, etc. – and also sets wages for the life of the project so that it won’t be hit with unanticipated wage increases.

    What this does not mean is that non-union contractors are prohibited from bidding on these projects. It may mean that, in practice, they are unlikely to win them. But they can still bid. Even the PLA-hating Beacon Hill Institute describes the situation this way (PDF, p. 7):

    …open-shop contractors contend that their competitive advantages are nullified by the PLA. The result is that in practice, if not in principle, they are unable to bid competitively on jobs that have a PLA requirement.

    Furthermore, the Supreme Judicial Court held a decade ago that PLAs are acceptable only in certain kinds of construction projects.

    We do not articulate a bright-line, litmus-test standard for determining when the use of a PLA is appropriate. Nor do we conclude that a PLA will be justified in all, or even most, circumstances. A project must be of substantial size, duration, timing, and complexity, and the interplay between all four of these factors must be considered. It may be that, in certain cases, the sheer size of a project warrants the adoption of a PLA.

    I know I’m just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but if I were in charge of the construction of the Justice Center, I would implement a PLA to control costs and make sure everyone working on the project had comparable skill sets to ensure the quality of the work.

    (Again, as much as I don’t want to see Tom Corbett win in November, part of me wouldn’t mind in the least seeing Jim Cawley leave this county for a minimum of four years.)

  • 2) Next, I give you the following from The Weakly Standard (here – on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon…more wingnut harrumphing over the recollections of Kennedy confidant Ted Sorensen – typical of conservatives; too much trouble to just leave the man alone at this point I guess)…

    While maintaining his standard posture that John F. Kennedy was a man of uncommon intelligence, charm, grace, wisdom, and magnetism, he is more contemptuous of Richard Nixon this time than abusive. Indeed, all goes relatively well until the last two sentences:

    Though it seemed at the time to be a battle between two opposing worldviews, the truth is that the two candidates did not vastly differ in that first debate. And while Kennedy would probably find a home in today’s Democratic Party, it is unlikely that Nixon would receive a warm welcome among the Tea Party.

    Oh? The Richard Nixon of 1960 may or may not get a friendly reception from the Tea Party of 2010—however that is defined—but is Sorensen serious when he suggests that the John Kennedy of 1960 “would probably find a home” in the party of Eric Holder, DailyKos, Keith Olbermann, MoveOn.org, Barbara Boxer, and Alan Grayson?

    What Ted Sorensen’s boss would have thought of gay marriage, cap-and-trade, racial quotas, Bill Ayers, and nationalizing General Motors, we can only speculate.

    Oh, I think we can do a little bit more than that on at least one issue (there’s enough red meat in what Philip Terzian says for a few more blog posts I guess, but this will have to do for now).

    I’ll let those in charge of the Nixon legacy defend Tricky Dick (my guess is that, since Nixon invented the “Southern strategy” that gave political clout to the life forms who largely comprise the teabaggers, I think he would be better received than anybody thinks), but as far as JFK is concerned, I have a feeling that he would have indeed defended legislation to reduce carbon emissions in pursuit of both saving the planet and ultimately ending our addiction to oil.

    And I say that because of quotes such as this (from here)…

    All this is not unrelated to world peace. “When a man’s ways please the Lord,” the Scriptures tell us, “he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter human rights – – the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation – – the right to breathe air as nature provided it – – the right of future generations to a healthy existence?

    And the .pdf from here contains the following words from our 35th president (at the Institute for Conservation Studies in Milford, PA on September 24, 1963, in a tribute to conservationist Gifford Pinchot)…

    I begin today a journey to save America’s natural heritage – a journey to protect the past and preserve the future.

    Today’s conservation movement must therefore embrace disciplines scarcely known to its prophets of the past. It must marshal our vast technological capacity on behalf of our vast resource supplies.

    The American people are not by nature selfish and wasteful. They are not unappreciative of the heritage of the past and their obligation to the future. But without guidance and information, without leadership and inspiration, without the qualities provided by Pinchot in his day which this Institute can provide in our time, mistakes will be made – mistakes which can never be undone.

    Fortunately there is evidence that this nation, once alerted, can take constructive actions – actions for which our grandchildren and their grandchildren will be ever more grateful than we.

    The dispute is no longer one of principles or goals – it is now merely a question of pace and means. And no one maintains that the obligation to use our resources efficiently and thoughtfully depends solely on the Federal Government. Nor is conservation merely the job of the park ranger or the forest ranger, the soil conservationist or the game warden. Conservation is the job of us all.

    …the role played by the Federal Government is a key one. Its attitude, effort, legislation and example all influence the national pattern.

    But in the field of resources, opportunities delayed are frequently opportunities lost – and those that are not lost are clearly more costly to achieve.

    This Nation is now rising to the challenge of exploring the vast universe of space. That is as it should be – for we cannot afford to ignore that challenge. But neither can we afford to neglect the universe here below.

    …”a Nation whose national resources are destroyed must inevitably pay the penalty of poverty, degradation and decay…Conservation…is the key to the future.”

    Yeah, speaking only for myself, I think Kennedy would have been “all over” cap and trade legislation; more than that, I can just imagine how rightly stinging his rhetoric would be over our inaction to date.

  • Update 10/31/10: And I’m sure this makes Terzian’s day.

  • 3) Finally, we found out from that Franklin and Marshall poll last week that Mike Fitzpatrick was supposedly leading Patrick Murphy by 10 points in the PA-08 contest (here).

    Well, this tells us that Murphy has a slight lead over Mikey in this recently-commissioned poll (which is pretty much what we figured anyway…that this contest would go down to the wire, I mean).

    And to help our incumbent congressman, click here.

    (And speaking of Mikey…)


  • Thursday Mashup (4/22/10)

    April 23, 2010
  • 1) Occasionally the Bucks County Courier Times experiences a journalistically lucid moment, and they did so yesterday here in an editorial about departing County Operations Office David Sanko…

    Sanko, an ex-big wig with the GOP, was hired in 2004 at $125,000 a year, not exorbitant for the chief executive of a large organization. But let’s remember that his was – and remains – a government job, which means the benefits are good and holidays plentiful.

    When Sanko resigned five years later, he was earning $140,688. Again, not outrageous. But during that time Sanko also drove a county car, compliments of taxpayers. And, it turns out, he received a sweet retirement deal – also compliments of taxpayers.

    How sweet became clear this week when the county revealed that Sanko received $76,500 – the amount the county deposited into a “457” retirement fund for Sanko over his tenure. Unlike the shrunken 401(k) retirement accounts most people in the private sector have, Sanko did not have to deposit any of his own income into the account, according to the county finance director.

    That’s not how it works for other non-union county workers. Their 457 retirement plans are built on the employees’ own contributions; the county doesn’t throw in a dime. That Sanko’s retirement deal turned the formula upside down made it unique in Bucks County, the finance director said.

    Uniquely generous!

    In fact, when taxpayers file their federal income tax returns next year, they might consider claiming part of Sanko’s retirement as a charitable contribution. Or maybe they should consider it a political contribution.

    Either way, taxpayers’ charity doesn’t end there. The “deferred compensation” Sanko received is just part of his retirement deal. When Sanko reaches 60 he’ll be entitled to pension payments of $18,000 a year – for his five years of service here.

    The editorial points out that Dem Bucks County Supervisor Diane Marseglia has quite rightly said that a deal should not be signed for a new supervisor unless the compensation for this individual is held up for public scrutiny.

    Well, given that Director of Finance and Administration Brian Hessenthaler was promoted yesterday to fill Sanko’s job (supported by all three commissioners, as noted here), I think any hint of controversy has been avoided for the moment at least (Hessenthaler deserves the benefit of the doubt, though I’d be curious to learn more about the other job applicants).

    Oh, and in the story about Hessenthaler’s promotion, we also learn the following…

    Commissioner Jim Cawley said there has been an unfair implication that Sanko’s benefits were concealed, when, in fact, his contract was a public document from the moment he was hired.

    Well, I don’t know where this public document supposedly is. I just spent a few minutes here looking for it, and I’ve come up empty.

    And I’m sure Hessenthaler will represent an improvement over his predecessor, who is recalled not so fondly here.

  • 2) Also, I stumbled across this item in which Fix Noise pokes fun at another Democrat, in this case Harry Reid for not returning a campaign donation from Goldman Sachs (I’m not thrilled about him receiving a donation like that either, though there a lot of corporate malefactors out there besides them; Lloyd Blankfein and his pals are particularly bad, I’ll admit)…

    It’s no secret that politicians constantly travel to Wall Street to raise money from the deep-pocketed financial industry executives. It happens all the time, and the financial crisis didn’t change much. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-CT, recently reiterated that this is a good reason to enact public financing of campaigns!

    I assume that the nameless individual behind this commentary doesn’t fancy the idea of public campaign financing, hence the exclamation point. However, the following should be noted in response (here, from January)…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — About 40 current and former corporate executives have a message for Congress: Quit hitting us up for campaign cash.

    In a letter to Congressional leaders on Friday, the executives urged Congress to approve public financing for House and Senate campaigns. They sent the letter a day after the Supreme Court struck down limits on corporate spending in elections.

    “Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors,” the letter said. “And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the court’s decision, the fund-raising pressure on members of Congress will only increase.”

    The companies represented by the executives who signed the letter include Playboy Enterprises, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, the Seagram’s liquor company, the toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines, Men’s Wearhouse, the Quaker Chemical Corporation, the Brita Products Company, San Diego National Bank, MetLife and Crate and Barrel.

    They sent the letter through Fair Elections Now, a coalition of good-government groups that has long lobbied Congress to pass legislation establishing public campaign financing.

    This also takes you to a site where you can learn more about public campaign financing, including an interactive map to find out what your state has done on this important issue.

    You want to get rid of the Michele Bachmanns, Jim Inhofes, Steve Kings and Louie Gohmerts out there, people? Limit the election cycle to 30 days, keep the corporate money out of it (tough, because a lot of people make a lot of dough out of this stuff, including the broadcast networks), and force these people to run on their accomplishments, or lack thereof (my grand and glorious plan also depends on an informed electorate, though, I realize).

    And if you think they look silly now…

  • 3) Finally, we recently observed the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, but we’re also a week beyond the third anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. And with that in mind, I give you the following USA Today story from last December…

    Administrative buildings began shutting down nearly 90 minutes before the first campuswide alert about the April 2007 shootings that eventually left 32 students and teachers dead.

    According to the report, two unidentified university officials notified their own family members of the first shootings more than an hour before the first alert was issued at 9:26 a.m., April 16.

    Campus trash collection was even canceled 21 minutes before students and teachers were warned.

    One of the two officials also alerted a colleague in Richmond more than 30 minutes before the campuswide alert but cautioned the colleague “to make sure (the information) doesn’t get out” because the university had not made an official announcement.

    The first warning came more than two hours after the first shootings and 14 minutes before Seung Hui Cho continued the rampage in a classroom building where some students were shot at their desks in the most deadly campus shooting in U.S. history.

    “What happened at Virginia Tech is by its very nature inexplicable, and we may never fully understand the tragic events that transpired that terrible day,” (former Governor Tim) Kaine said in a written statement Friday. “However, the Commonwealth has remained committed to providing as accurate a factual narrative as possible.”

    After reading this account, I have a question; why isn’t a grand jury looking into this (I’ve looked around and found no news story on that)?

    Why was campus trash collection, for example, halted before the entire campus was notified that a shooter was on the premises (allegedly)?

    Oh, I forgot – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is too busy suing over health care reform as part of burnishing his conservative bona fides (as noted here) to do the job he was tasked to do by Governor Bob McDonnell (who isn’t far behind him in the winguttery brigade).

    I have no doubt that Virginia Tech is, among other things, a wonderful community of individuals of all kinds of ethnicities, life experiences and skills. And it is a tribute to the talent and resiliency of the school’s students, faculty and other personnel that it has come back from one of the darkest experiences surely that any institution of learning could imagine.

    And that makes it even more of an almost unspeakable travesty that the shootings that very nearly tore it apart have not been investigated as fully as possible as part of every effort to ensure they never occur again.

  • Update 5/25/10: More bang-‘em-up pro-gun antics from McDonnell – somehow, I’m sure he knew what he was doing by allowing the name of the non-existent group here.


    Friday Mashup

    January 22, 2010

    (Note: I’m probably a couple of weeks away at least from posting again the way I have in the past due to my arm injury. I’ll be sure to let you know what’s going on.)

  • 1) Over at The Hill, Repug Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana recently said the following (here, in yet another attack on the Obama Administration)…

    First out of the gate was the $787 billion so-called stimulus bill that was nothing more than a wish-list of liberal spending priorities. Following the policies of more spending and more debt — the same policies that got us into this mess — would not get our economy moving again.

    Meanwhile, this tells us the following (from Crooks and Liars)…

    Rep. Mike Pence disagrees with the stimulus and voted against it but wants more of it for his state. “The Democrats in Congress and the administration said we were going to have to borrow nearly a trillion dollars from future generations and spend it on this — this long laundry list of liberal spending priorities we called stimulus and that unless we did that, unemployment would reach 8% nationally. It’s 9.5% nationally today,” Pence told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

    But Pence charges that Indiana isn’t getting enough money from the very program that he doesn’t support. “You check the Indiana Star, you’ll see stories about the stimulus. One is that four out of ten major projects in the stimulus for Indiana had been allotted to companies outside the state of Indiana,” complained Pence.

    So which is it, Pence? Do you support the “stim” or don’t you? If you don’t, then why are you trying to grab up the dough?

    Oh, and by the way, as Think Progress notes here, Pence was one of the Repugs who was just thrilled over yesterday’s horrific Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited free speech for corporations, among other entities (no word on what Pence’s reaction would be if another Giganticorp, Inc. came along and decided to fund a Pence election opponent as much as they wanted, which is now allowed of course).

    So what other economic ideas has Pence supported as long as he opposes Obama and the “Democrat majority” (jerk)? Why, as noted here, he supports a spending freeze, which, as TP (again) tells us, “would allow inflation to eat away at funding for vital programs, including Pell Grants, Head Start and infrastructure investments. It would mean less money, in real terms, for just about everything. There are also projects — like the 2010 census – that need a spending boost.”

    The game of Pence and his Repug playmates is to do nothing and hope that voters forget that our current economic mess, to say nothing of two wars, originated under the administration of Obama’s predecessor. And that worked in Massachusetts because the Democratic Party leadership was utterly asleep and thought they would win a ceremonial victory.

    But Messrs. Kaine, Menendez and the rest of the Dems should have learned from that debacle that everything is in play for November. However, the Repugs will have to play the same game of defending their seats as the Dems.

    Being a Dem in this climate has disadvantages, as does being a Repug. But being an incumbent, period, is the biggest disadvantage of all.

  • 2) Today’s Bucks County Courier Times tells us the following (here)…

    A 12.5 percent salary increase to the Bucks County employee in charge of overseeing the $100 million courthouse project led to a heated disagreement among county commissioners.

    Diane Marseglia, the lone Democrat on the three-member panel, criticized the decision of her colleagues, Republicans Charley Martin and Jim Cawley, to raise the salary of Director of Operations Jerry Anderson to $104,456.

    “It’s too much money,” Marseglia said Wednesday of the $11,575 bump in pay from $92,881. “Nobody gets an increase like that, especially in this economy.”

    Martin defended the pay hike, saying the “fairly substantial amount is appropriate.”

    Anderson is in charge of all county bridges, buildings and the parks and recreation department, in addition to spearheading work on the new courthouse, according to Chris Edwards of the county public information office.

    He also headed up building the $22 million parking garage on Broad Street.

    Compensation for non-union county personnel is set by the salary board. Martin said Anderson’s raise fit within that range.

    Hired Dec. 26, 2006 as special projects manager in the public works department for $55,344, Anderson became the director of operations on Sept. 17, 2008 at a salary of $85,000. Since then, his annual pay has jumped nearly $20,000, or 23 percent, including a 3 percent cost of living adjustment on Jan. 1.

    Another “triumph” for Jim Cawley and Charley (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin (no comment from Jay Russell, the “independent” candidate in the last Bucks County commissioners election who ensured that we would be saddled once more with Martin and a Repug majority).

  • Update 1/24/10: The Courier Times points out here today that Anderson basically contributed $4,400 to “Republican causes” and was rewarded with about a $50,000 raise as a result. And Republicans dare to scream about alleged Democratic Party fiscal malfeasance.

  • 3) Finally, this letter in the Courier Times yesterday stated as follows…

    Newtown Township Supervisor Rob Ciervo recently announced he will run for the 31st Assembly District seat now held by state Rep. Steve Santarsiero.

    Ciervo was elected supervisor in 2007 to a six-year term and assumed the role of chairman this summer, after former Supervisor Tom Jirele’s sudden resignation. As a resident of Newtown Township, I feel that Mr. Ciervo should fulfill his commitment to the residents of Newtown Township who elected him to the board of supervisors.

    If these local politicians can’t commit themselves for six years, they shouldn’t run for the position in the first place. Perhaps Mr. Ciervo wishes to leave the NTBOS before local residents catch on to the fact that constant dipping into reserve funds is a temporary fix and only postpones the inevitable tax increases facing Newtown Township.

    Steve Santarsiero has been in office less than one year. Honestly, that is not enough time to truly gauge the job of a state representative. However, in that time, Steve helped balance the state’s budget and actually decreased overall spending by $500 million. Let’s keep Steve Santarsiero working for us and let self-serving politicians finish the jobs they started.

    Edward H. Valenti
    Newtown, PA

    To contact Steve, click here.


  • A Bucks Countian’s Response To Dave Sanko’s Sendoff

    October 28, 2009

    sanko
    Now-departing Bucks County Chief Operating Officer David Sanko wrote the following Guest Opinion in the Courier Times yesterday…

    For the last five years, it has been my privilege to serve the residents of Bucks County as chief operating officer. During that time, your county government has made tremendous strides – fiscally, physically and in the constantly evolving realm of service provision. At a time when governments around our nation are seeing budgets stretched thin or turned to ribbons of red ink, Bucks County is uniquely positioned to handle the current economic climate. The reason for this is two words: fiscal responsibility.

    For three years in a row, the board of commissioners held the line on county property taxes – the first time since 1994-96!

    I’m not sure why Sanko is praising the commissioners here, but it should be noted that (according to here), property taxes in Bucks have gone up 46 percent since 2001, so I think the whole “three-year” thing should be taken with a grain of salt, to say the least.

    Back to Sanko…

    Further, under the expert guidance of Finance Director Brian Hessenthaler, the last five years have produced a steady growth in the county’s general fund, also known as the “rainy day” fund. From a 2005 total of $9 million, we increased that rainy day fund to the current figure of $73 million. This allowed us to earn a record setting high S&P bond rating, and saves us money as we borrow in the future for open space and the new Justice Center.

    In response, I’d like to point out (from here) that every time our august Bucks County Commissioners want to designate property for open space, they issue a bond as opposed to drawing up a regional plan in coordination with other Bucks municipalities, which is bound to be cheaper; as former commissioner candidate (and now PA House Rep for District 31) Steve Santarsiero noted, “the county doesn’t have enough money to (issue a bond) for every piece of property that needs (an open space) designation.”

    Back to Sanko…

    How has this growth been achieved? In addition to prudent spending, we’ve refinanced multiple bond issues, hired a county grants coordinator (producing more than $2 million in grant awards), convened a BEST (Bucks Employees Saving Taxes) Committee that replicates sound business practices, asked our management team to make difficult but wise choices regarding their departmental budgets, and improved efficiencies by hiring an asset manager.

    Oh, and speaking of hiring employees, it should be noted that Sanko, along with Bucks County commissioners Jim Cawley and Charley “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” Martin, “(hired) two employees without publicly advertising those open positions or interviewing anyone other than those who got the nod for the jobs,” as the Courier Times tells us here (one position was a $30,992-a-year job as an administrative assistant for the public information office, and the other was a $19-an-hour position for a legal secretary – the whole matter was aptly summed up by the other commissioner, Dem Diane Marseglia, as “policy as usual”).

    And speaking of cronyism in hiring, Martin said here that he wanted to replace Sanko with “a political operative” (the beat goes on).

    Also, I would like to enter the following “into the record,” as it were, as long as Sanko is telling us how wonderful he is:

  • Sanko dismissed Patrick Murphy’s call here for a paper ballot backup to a vote as an “unfunded mandate” (makes too much sense, I guess).
  • He had the lock changed on the County Commissioner’s office because Diane Marseglia gave a reporter the combination to the office suite, as noted here (drat that “good government” impulse!).
  • Cawley said Diane owed Sanko an apology because Sanko had failed to provide information Diane had requested, namely, the written justifications by county employees for vehicles on our dime (here – typical).
  • County Board of Elections Director Deena Dean accused Sanko of “two years of harassment” here.
  • Sanko participated in a GOP fundraiser here, which he considered “no big deal,” even though he did so as a government employee (typical for a Bucks County Repug).
  • I will acknowledge Sanko’s successes in his position, which he notes in his farewell. While he deserves credit, I would be happy if his replacement achieved a similar measure of success without the execrable wreak of political partisanship that Sanko managed to turn into a job requirement.


    Tuesday Mashup Part 1 (7/21/09)

    July 21, 2009

  • I guess I shouldn’t when all is said and done, but I feel sorry for PA Governor Ed Rendell.

    As noted in this Wikipedia article, Pennsylvania’s minority and women owned business participation rate quadrupled under his administration. He also managed to save $180 million by fixing PA’s antiquated procurement system (“antiquated” is an apt term for much of our state government, by the way). Also under his watch, gaming legislation was passed in an effort to reduce property tax revenue, which, despite some of my reservations, is a good thing on balance. Also, as noted here from a year ago, he presciently called for the development of an infrastructure bank, and as noted here, he has been a steadfast force in the Herculean effort of trying to enact common sense gun legislation in this state (though he was a bit too kind to the life forms who wanted to hang Philadelphia state rep Angel Cruz here).

    However, Rendell now holds a 39 percent approval rating largely due to the budget wrangling going on in Harrisburg, as noted here (hey, it could be worse – we could be “Gullyvornia” here, people), and he is now reduced to the role of running interference for fellow “Democrat” Arlen Specter as the latter tries desperately to hang onto his Senate seat in the face of a challenge from Joe Sestak, among others, as noted here.

    All of this leads me to believe that there will be a backlash of sorts next year when the Dems have to play defense in the 2010 elections, including in the Pennsylvania state house. And though I’m not sure what else Rendell could have done to avoid it, I have this unpleasant suspicion that he will end up marking off his remaining days while the Repug faithful await the gubernatorial coronation of Tom Corbett next year (please let me be wrong…).

  • And speaking of Corbett, it seems that Bucks County’s own commissioner Jim Cawley is making noises as if he wants to be Lieutenant Governor in a Corbett administration, according to this story in the Bucks County Courier Times, which has gone “the full wingnut” lately, with stories such as “Conservative Activism On The Rise” and “Conservatives Decry Obama Policies” by Gary Weckselblatt as well as a spread devoted to a Pat Toomey/Simon Campbell/Kathleen Zawacki fundraiser at Shady Brook Farm.

    (Yes, I understand these are coverage-worthy topics, but I don’t recall so much column space EVER devoted to Democratic/progressive causes or meetings leading up to the 2006 or 2008 presidential or congressional elections.)

    Well, as it turns out, Cawley and his fellow commissioner playmate, Charley “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” Martin, worked in concert with fellow poobah (and county operations officer) Dave Sanko to “(hire) two employees without publicly advertising those open positions or interviewing anyone other than those who got the nod for the jobs,” as the Courier Times tells us here (one position was a $30,992-a-year job as an administrative assistant for the public information office, and the other was a $19-an-hour position for a legal secretary – the whole matter was aptly summed up by the other commissioner, Dem Diane Marseglia, as “policy as usual”).

    By the way, the same “Thumbs Down” editorial criticizing Cawley and Martin also criticizes Rendell for saying that “one year” of incarceration for disgraced PA Dem Senator Vince Fumo would have been enough (he ended up with a 55-month sentence). I didn’t like Fumo’s creation of phantom jobs and other acts of taxpayer malfeasance, as well as hiring someone to spy for him on our dime (I should object to his shaking down of Exelon Energy also, though it’s hard to work up sympathy for them as well). However, I thought reporter Dave Davies of the Philadelphia Daily News made the following good points in a July 15th story (link expired on me – another genius Tierney move to combat those dastardly search sites stealing his precious circulation, or so he believes)…

    We should remember that Fumo isn’t getting away clean. He’s lost his office, his reputation and his law license, and will be ravaged by multimillion-dollar legal fees and restitution payments.

    Indeed, the sight of Fumo in court yesterday was pitiful. He sat between his fiancée and daughter, often clutching the hands of both. His expression was vacant, and a facial tremor became more acute as the day wore on. His lawyers say he’s now dependent on tranquilizers.

    When he rose to speak with Buckwalter, his voice was soft and he began to weep almost immediately. For those who remember Fumo in his blustering and confident prime, it was shocking to behold.

    And Fumo will serve four years in prison, a significant term for a 66-year-old man in poor health.

    Just sayin’, that’s all…

  • And finally, I should note that while I was away, Repug U.S. House Rep of PA-16 Joe Pitts actually showed a pulse and did something besides vote No; he concocted this screed full of “values voter” red meat about how the coming health care legislation from Obama and the congressional Dems is going to (wait for it…) MANDATE ABORTION ON DEMAND!! OMIGOD!!!

    Well, for the reality-based point of view, here is the following from Judy Berman of Salon.com…

    In the depressingly titled piece “Could Abortion Coverage Sink Health-Care Reform?” Time’s Karen Tumulty reminds us that, since 1976, The Hyde Amendment has prohibited Medicaid from using federal funding for abortion. But now that massive healthcare reform is on the agenda once again, lawmakers will have a chance to tackle the issue anew.

    What’s truly chilling about Tumulty’s piece is its warning about the widespread effects of banning federal funding for abortion under Obama’s healthcare plan. While The Hyde Amendment was only concerned with Medicaid, the new legislation may also affect women who use government subsidies to buy private health plans. “[I]f the antiabortion legislators get their way, those subsidies would have a big string attached; they could not be used to purchase a policy that has abortion coverage,” Tumulty writes. “For many women, that would mean giving up a benefit they now have under their private insurance policies. And it would raise all sorts of other questions if insurers were allowed to discriminate among their customers based on whether or not they are using federal dollars to pay for their policies.”

    And as Berman notes, any legislation banning federal funding for abortion will impact poor women significantly more than women who already have this benefit from private coverage.

    So, as usual, Pitts, being the dutiful Repug cipher that he is, claims oppression while he and his brethren maneuver out of the spotlight to actually expand Hyde and take away a right already guaranteed to women with coverage they already have.

    All of which is part and parcel of following the marching orders noted here.


  • Cawley’s “Can’t Do” Spirit On The Stimulus

    March 24, 2009

    elephant2
    I want to thank Bucks County Courier Times letter writer Paul Lang, Jr. this morning for jogging my memory a bit on a recent quote from one of our illustrious county commissioners (sarcasm intended) – here is his letter…

    Regarding county Commissioner Jim Cawley’s quote, “I am far from somebody who is rooting for the (Democratic) economic stimulus package”: This comment is un-American and outrageous. I am an American first and want only the best for this country regardless of political party affiliation.

    As a registered Democrat, I voted for Barack Obama. If Cawley’s Republican choice, John McCain, had won the presidency, then I would be cheering and praying for McCain to succeed.

    Cawley should never be elected to any office anywhere again. He has shown his true un-American colors.

    Paul Lang Jr.
    Northampton

    And of course, that met with the predictable wingnut comment noise online, which Lang should wear as a badge of honor, actually.

    I believe the reason why I missed this is because the original quote from Cawley appeared in this column by J.D. Mullane about the current dilapidated state of Washington Crossing Park. And Cawley is entitled to his opinion, I realize, but in his capacity as a commissioner, I think his comments should be neutral at the very least, particularly given the fact that the Repugs are so tolerant of opinions which differ from their own, as we know.

    Well, for Cawley’s information, here is a link to an analysis from The Philadelphia Inquirer showing that Bucks County stands to receive millions in school district funding from the stimulus, as well as $600 million from the $48.1 billion in transportation stimulus funds for Greater Philadelphia (affecting many Bucks residents), as well as approximately $318 for highways in southeastern Pennsylvania, $120 million for highways in southern New Jersey, and $193 million for SEPTA (noted here).

    And as noted from here, the stimulus provides funding to…

  • (Protect) 972,000 Pennsylvanians from the Alternative Minimum Tax.
  • (Match) unemployed individuals to job openings through state employment service agencies and allow Pennsylvania to provide customized reemployment services ($15.4 million).
  • (Extend) Bonus Depreciation and Small Business Expensing through 2009, allowing businesses that make capital investments to immediately deduct one-half the cost. Small businesses can immediately deduct 100 percent of the cost of these investments.
  • (Help) law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative response to offenders who use the Internet or other computer technology to sexually exploit children ($1 million).
  • (Improve) the response to violent crimes against women and to assist victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking ($6.4 million).
  • But of course, Cawley is “far from somebody who is rooting for the (Democratic) economic stimulus package.”

    This is typical for someone who, as noted here, refused to fund an Army Corps of Engineers study of the Delaware River, to the point where Patrick Murphy had to intervene or else Bucks would have lost out on critical federal funds for this project.

    And as noted here, Cawley told a group of people gathered in Bristol, Pa. that “county money pegged for a three-hole golf course and driving range can be spent only for recreational purposes” (just what Bucks needs – another golf course), even though the majority of the residents favor a skate park, but with a chunk of the $400,000 going to keep the struggling Bristol Township homeless shelter open (also favored by Bucks commissioner Diane Marseglia, with the third commissioner, Charley Martin, stating that he believes skateboarding is “a fad” – here’s some reading material on this for Mr. “I Have A Semi-Open Mind”).

    Finally, this tells us that the Bucks County Coalition for Voting Integrity was denied access to records on the purchase of new county voting machines, as well as the fact that the Bucks County Health Department refused to turn over records of its pool inspections to the Doylestown Intelligencer, which attempted to publish an investigatory report on the safety of Bucks County swimming pools some years ago.

    So of course Cawley has to oppose the stimulus because of what it could provide to families and the working middle class of this county; also consider the fact that Cawley’s playmate Charley Martin would never have been returned to office were it not for the intercession of clueless third party candidate Jay Russell working on behalf of the Repugs, as noted here – it’s clear that their grip on county government is slipping anyway.

    And if the stimulus succeeds, making it plainly obvious which political party wants to ensure prosperity in Bucks and the rest of this country and which one doesn’t, they’ll lose that grip once and for all.


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