Friday, May 11, 2007


(News-Herald, May 10)
I’m not always one to count down to election day, but I’ll be glad when the primaries are over Tuesday.

The newspaper’s real reporters will no doubt continue their fair and even-handed coverage of the upcoming election. Fortunately, I am not bound by any requirements to be fair or reasonable, so I can present you with my totally biased voting guide.


Act 1 is Smilin’ Ed Rendell’s latest attempt to pretend to provide property tax reform in Pennsylvania. All of these attempts have had one thing in common; they’ve been set up so that if people like them, Harrisburg can take the credit, and if people don’t, Harrisburg can blame it one someone else.

The saga has been marked by a struggle between local school boards, who keep refusing to do what they’re told, and Smilin’ Ed, who keeps looking for ways to force them to.

Act 1 will not reduce taxes. It will just move them around. The question that voters get to answer, unfortunately is not “Do you think this is stupid?” The question instead is, “We’re going to force someone to pay some of Grampa’s property tax. Should we force people who work for a living, or people who have investments?”

Retired homeowners will be the big winners. Depending on where you live, big losers may be A) people with jobs who rent or B) people with significant investment income. Should be interesting to see what effect the decision has on where people choose to live, since school districts can make themselves investor havens or renters’ hell.


I just had no idea that a judge job was such a plum. I am becoming tempted to run for the office myself.

It’s not just the astonishing amount of money being spent on the campaign—it’s that it’s all been spent so badly.

There’s the signage, enough that if we could make a sizable papier mache addition to the courthouse. There’s the small forest of junk mail bending the backs of Venangoland mail deliverers. And there’s the endless onslaught of phone calls, many of which sound as if they’re coming from a call center somewhere folks couldn’t even find Venango County on a map.

And out of this very expensive onslaught of campaigning, we get these basic messages:

1) This is my name.

2) This is what I look like.

3) I want to be judge.

4) I think fairness, integrity and experience are important.

From the weight given to #4, you would assume that the candidates think

they're running against a sleazy crook who has never seen the inside of a courtroom. If that guy were running, at least he would stand out in some significant way from the other three. As it is, we’ll all just vote for the one we’ve got the best impression of based on hearsay, stories we’ve heard at church and the grocery store, and any personal info we have. We could have done that without record-breaking attempts to buy the office.


Here’s a clue. If you think one of the major issues facing the commissioners is how to handle Two Mile Run County Park, you shouldn’t be a county commissioner.

I’ll settle for someone who has a reasonably good grasp of how to handle the nuts and bolts of keeping the county functioning. I would love to see people in politics in the region who have some drive and a plan, some sort of vision for the county beyond plodding along with business almost as usual.

But vision is hard to come by in local politics, and I don’t necessarily blame our politicians. I suspect that some days they feel that if they brought back a sack with a billion dollars in it, some local residents would complain about the composition of the sack, the stacking of the money, and how we should just throw the money out if those people are going to get some of it.

Beyond that, I don’t honestly know who half the commissioner candidates are. Heck, I couldn’t even tell you which office some of the names-on-signs are running for.

School board elections? As usual, there aren’t enough willing citizens to give voters a real choice, except in Cranberry, where it will be a circus no matter whom the voters elect.

One word of advice. If you have a true favorite candidate for one of the mob races, vote for just that candidate. When the ballot says “select up to three,” you can select just one, and that gives your candidate a better shot.

And whoever ends up running the county, I hope they vigorously pursue candidates who don’t take down their stupid signs promptly.

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