Monthly Archives: September 2011

Proposed PA Mini Electoral College and the gerrymander principle

by Nathaniel Smith, in Politics: A View from West Chester, 9/20/11

…The gist of the plan is that the state’s electoral votes would be determined at the rate of one per congressional district plus 2 for winning the state. This, like the Electoral College and the legislative selection of Senators, would put one more layer between the people and the results of voting.

Interestingly, it turns out that no other state is considering this move. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

The chief sponsor is state senator Dominic Pileggi (R-9), Senate Majority Leader, who represents a swath of southern Chester and Delaware Counties; see his site for some details on his plan, not yet submitted as a bill.

On Sen. Pileggi’s Facebook page, in reply to the claim that this plan would “more fairly allocate Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes in presidential elections,” reader Bill Steig posted this acerbic comment (which, to the Senator’s credit, remains for all to see):

“Hey senator, guess what: the 2000 presidential election didn’t ‘accutely reflect the popular vote’ of the nation, to use your words in today’s Inquirer. So I guess you agree President Gore would have been better for the nation. Glad you came to your senses—11 years late. What a shameless, cynical political power play.”

True: if the Republicans are so concerned about fairness, why don’t they propose to abolish “winner take all” in all states, not just in a relatively populated swing state where Democrats have won the last five presidential contests?

Furthermore, the timing is certainly suspect; it’s not as if the bill’s sponsor hasn’t ever had a chance to do something for his vision of electoral “fairness” ….

read the full post in Politics: A View from West Chester

Dangerous legislation

letter, Daily Local News, 9/30/11

Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives — with Rep. Jim Gerlach’s support — passed the “TRAIN” Act, legislation that could result in 139,500 lives lost by delaying the cleanup of toxic power plant pollution.

This piece of legislation would indefinitely delay standards that limit soot, smog, mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants. Delaying these standards would mean that every year, Pennsylvanians would suffer more asthma attacks, more hospitalizations and more premature deaths from air pollution.

Given the threat this bill poses to the safety of our children, it is unacceptable that Rep. Gerlach voted to pass it. There is no excuse for putting Pennsylvanians’ lives at risk. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey should oppose this dangerous bill.

Michael Tracht
PennEnvironment

County Commisioners Respond to Recorder of Deeds Candidate

By Jake Speicher, West Chester Patch, 9/30/11

County Commissioners say the problem should be fixed by October 7.

During Wednesday’s Chester County Commissioner’s Sunshine Meeting, Recorder of Deeds candidate Russ Phifer accused County Commissioner’s Ryan Costello and Terrence Farrell of supporting a program that allows users to access the County’s search database for free.

According to Phifer, the “program” is costing Chester County hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue.

In a press release, Phifer stated, “A review of account records makes it obvious that the free ‘back door’ you provided to ChescoPin is primarily being used by county law firms for routine searches.”

The press release goes on to say that Phifer estimated that as many as 30,000 unbilled searches have been made under this “program.”

During Thursday’s regular meeting of the county commissioners, Costello and Farrell asked county chief information officer Glenn Angstadt about the issue.

“We’re in the process of fixing it.” Angstadt said. “In March of this year we got a report about users being locked out of the system. After investigating the problem, we located this free account that allowed users to see other information for free.”

Angstadt also said that his office had been working on a fix for the problem since July.

“Programming and fixes like this take a long time,” Angstadt said….

keep reading at West Chester Patch

How FDR saw it after his first term

from FDR’s 10/31/36 speech in Madison Square Garden, New York:

…For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master….

Chester County candidate sees $500,000 in missed revenue

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/29/11

A routine Chester County commissioners’ meeting turned prickly Wednesday when the two Republican commissioners were accused of forfeiting at least $500,000 in county revenue during the last decade.

The cause was a loophole in ChescoPin, an electronic subscription database the county operates, said Russ Phifer, a London Grove Township Democrat running for recorder of deeds.

Phifer said he was questioning the wisdom of providing some users free access to a paid service as a county taxpayer, not as a candidate.

Republican Commissioners Terence Farrell and Ryan Costello scoffed at that notion, insisting Phifer’s motive was political. Costello went a step further, chastening Democratic Commissioner Kathi Cozzone for not giving the board advance notice of Phifer’s claims.

When emotions cooled, Costello and Farrell, who each served previously as recorder of deeds, said they were not aware that the recorder of deeds’ website provides log-in information so users can access the entire system.

“If there is a glitch in the system, a back door, we need to investigate it,” Farrell said.

ChescoPin, an online venue for accessing county data ranging from civil suits to marriage licenses to tax assessments, is available for a $50 up-front fee, then $10 a month for up to 100 searches and 10 cents for each additional transaction.

Phifer said his research showed that more than 3.5 million unpaid searches had been made since 2001 through the recorder of deeds’ password and user name, which Farrell set up….

keep reading at Philadelphia Inquirer

Lucky to have such a smart president

letter in Daily Local News, 9/29/11

As I was driving home the other day, I put on POTUS (live news) on XM radio and I found myself in the middle of President Obama doing a live town hall meeting. I wanted to write this letter right away because the answers he gave to every question were so darned intelligent and out-of-the-box creative, I felt I had to share them. I can’t think of any other leader in my lifetime that has been smarter, better informed, and well-spoken.

Example: When someone asked the president what he’s going to do about the unemployed veterans, he gave an example of a vet he had met at a lunch recently (he talks to regular people!) who had been serving in the medical corps in the war zones. He recognized the training this vet had had and the experience with the most extreme medical conditions, and yet when this vet came home and wanted to get his nursing degree, he had to start at square one with all the beginning nursing students.

Obama is proposing a program of reverse boot camp where service people, ready to be discharged or retire, would undergo interviews and training for post-military life.

Also, the president said he’s working with schools and businesses to see what kind of certifications the military could give the soldiers coming out that would be directly applicable to civilian life. (This is just a short version of his detailed explanation.)

I hope you can see/hear the whole version, but I bet you won’t see the story of this event on the news anywhere. Instead, either they’ll ignore the whole thing, or put on a nondescript 10-second sound bite.

If we were all exposed to Obama’s careful thinking processes on a regular basis, I don’t think there would be any question how lucky we are to have this down-to-earth, judicious man on the job. I’ve never seen anyone try harder to do the right thing for all the people.

Debby Kern
Chester County

Candidate points out costly flaw in county website

by Michael P. Rellahan, Daily Local News, 9/28/11 (online originally as “Website allows users to access information for free”; 9/29 in print as “‘Back Door’ Dilemma”)

WEST CHESTER — The Democratic candidate for Chester County Recorder of Deeds on Wednesday asked the commissioners to disable a “back door” Web account that he said was allowing users to get county data for free that others — like him — must pay for.

“This account should be shut down immediately,” Russ Phifer told the three commissioners during their public work session. He estimated that the county had lost as much as $500,000 over the decade that the account has been open and used surreptitiously by those who knew about its existence.

Phifer, of London Grove, said that the account user name and password were available on the county Recorder of Deeds’ website, and granted free access to all the information that is accessible through the county’s ChescoPIN system. Those who use ChescoPIN must pay a registration fee and monthly service charge to search through land and deed records, court filings, and other public information.

“Thousands of people” — mostly attorneys and Realtors — have used the account information to get free data, while the 676 registered users of ChescoPIN must still pay for the same service, Phifer charged. He said his research showed that as many as 3.5 million searches were completed using the account. “Is it fair to leave this account open?” he asked at the meeting. “This is fraud, ladies and gentleman.”

Phifer pointed to commissioners’ Chairman Terence Farrell and Commissioner Ryan Costello as being most responsible for the situation, since they both served as recorder of deeds while the account information was made available….

keep reading at Daily Local News