In the News

It seems almost everyone has a “notes” column about the news these days. So I figured I’d give it a shot. Some points to ponder over the long Memorial Day weekend….

• Much has been made of the state of the county’s Democratic Party – and with good reason. We’ve certainly had our share of losses recently, and the party structure needs improved, to say the least. But I am genuinely excited about three young men running for the General Assembly this year – A.J. Gales (57th District), Raymond “Bud” Geissler (56th) and Patrick Leyland (54th). All are young, energetic first time candidates who are new to politics, eager to work and proud to be Democrats. These are good guys and good candidates. There is hope.

• Then on the other end of the spectrum, State Senator Kim Ward wins the Democratic write-in vote so she is all but assured a new term. Kudos to her for putting her campaign money and organization to good work. Her vote total was very impressive. That said, however, the fact that she is now a “Democratic” candidate is so sad on so many levels.

• You may have read recently about my efforts to keep our East Vandergrift Senior Center from closing. The community really rallied to help save it. I am happy to report that it will stay open for at least another year. Strangely, my colleagues felt the need to issue a news release – without me – about it staying open, despite never really working on the solution. I know politicians are always looking for credit, but their actions are very bush league. Some people solve problems; others seek glory.

• It was also reported recently about my signing on to a letter supporting local governments’ legal challenge to the state’s Act 13 governing shale gas drilling. It’s bad legislation in so many ways, but it essentially eliminates local governments’ ability to have any input through land use ordinances. The same crowd in Harrisburg that perpetually touts “local control” on nearly everything else doesn’t seem to care when it’s about gas drilling. Such hypocrites.

• Huge news at the Arnold Palmer Airport regarding new daily flights to Orlando. This is very significant for our area, our economy and for local travelers. At a time when air traffic is struggling at many airports, service at Westmoreland County’s airport is expanding and improving. If you haven’t flown from that airport yet, I promise you will be impressed with how convenient and inexpensive it is.

• Unfortunately, something that wasn’t reported was our efforts to raise awareness of cuts to programs for people with intellectual disabilities (“Share Your Story”). A Tribune-Review reporter interviewed families affected and wrote a story only to have it killed by an editor, who later told me that they’ve told this story before. Really? Like you, I must have missed all those stories. What a shame to have families open up about difficult personal situations for nothing.

• State budget cuts to human service programs are playing out so far as I predicted. The State Senate has passed a budget that reduces the governor’s cuts from 20 percent to 10 percent. Now these legislators will all run around like heroes who preserved services. These are chronically under-funded programs to begin with. No one should be celebrating. That people with disabilities are still on a “waiting list” for services is unconscionable.

• Speaking of cuts, I received an e-mail newsletter last month from Governor Corbett’s office that began with the phrase, “Keeping with his commitment to protect the most vulnerable in our society…” I am not kidding. Seriously, politicians really will say anything.

• I also got an e-mail way back on April 18 from a very proud Senator Pat Toomey’s office crowing about a federal budget he introduced. That same day I asked his office what this alleged budget means for Community Development Block Grant funding (a very important program to the county and our communities) and programs for people with special needs. 36 days later, and counting, I am still waiting for an answer. Phony budgets – that apparently can’t be explained either – do nothing to advance our country. No wonder people are fed up with Congress.

• Something I am certainly fed up with already is negative television ads. It’s only May, and every day I see negative hit pieces against President Obama from groups like American Crossroads and other “independent” groups. Money can buy a lot of things apparently – even a break from reality. It’s going to be a long, and nasty, campaign.