Sunday, April 28, 2013

Where I Stand on the "Lunch Ladies" Issue

In middle school (at Swain) and at Emmaus High School, I was always that dorky kid who was friends with the lunch ladies. They're some of the nicest, most caring people you'd ever meet. They have hard jobs, get a lot of disrespect from bratty kids, but somehow always serve your meal with a smile on their face.

Logical that a longtime fat kid like yours truly would get along well with them.

When I first was elected to the school board, our "foodcrafters" (the PC term) decided to unionize under the PSEA (the Pennsylvania teachers union or as I call it, "Satan"). My understanding is the vote to unionize was very close and was only won because a handful of would-be voters were ill and unable to come in.

I had heard privately from a few individuals since then that they were not all that happy with forced-dues deduction by the union and they did not feel they were receiving fair service from the union for the money they were giving up from their paycheck.

I'm not thrilled that they unionized but, for the moment, public employee unions are legal as is forced dues deduction.

Pennsylvania needs to alleviate the latter part by becoming a Right to Work state. No matter how much Patrick Slattery and the other East Penn Area DemoHacks try to demagogue the issue, Right to Work does not mean anything other than giving each employee the choice to join the union and pay dues or not. That's it. It isn't union busting, it's freedom of choice!

Fast forward to 2013.

The glorious Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the legislature (in their infinite wisdom) required school boards to bid out their food service contracts to "save money".

Patrick Slattery and his "Citizens for Strong Communities" are trying to make this a Union vs. Taxpayers issue...as they have done in every campaign in the last 5 years or so.

It isn't. Cost is one issue I will take into consideration by voting time, but it isn't the only issue...even though those attending in support of the Union clapped when Byron Crudup declared I "had to go".

Political rancor will take a back seat for me on this. Though I am always concerned about cost, I know what a service our "lunch ladies" render for the children in our community. That service cannot be measured in dollars and cents. The biggest service they give is something in very short supply these days: kindness.

I have not decided how I'll vote in the end, but right now, you now know my thinking and where I am.

Sarah Palin AGAIN Speaks Truth to Power (and Also Quotes Tony Stark/Ironman)






  (Check at the 5:53 second mark...or just watch the whole thing in prep for Iron Man 3 coming out!)

During the early days of Twittergate, I was compared to Sarah Palin by someone who meant it as an insult. Of course, I didn't take it as one. The comparison is flattering but I'm nowhere near so attractive. She also has far more guns and I imagine is a much better shot.

I've been a Palinista since her days as mayor of Wasilla, a small town in Alaska not so different from my hometown of Emmaus. She has common sense, speaks her mind, and doesn't give a damn what  people think of her. If she had not been picked for VP, I very likely wouldn't have wasted my vote for McRINO in 2008.

She drives the left crazy(er) and she knows it. Say what you want about her. If Sarah so much as tweets, she influences the public discourse.

She has a way of distilling the debate down to a common level that anyone can understand. "Death panels" is a pretty good example.

Now? #DCAssclowns

Progressive Indoctrination in the Classroom at the University of Scranton

The following post was written by Emily Rose, a student at the University of Scranton. I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance at a tax day tea party two years ago.

Her twitter and facebook business account.

This post has not been edited by me in any way.
As a member of the University of Scranton’s Honors program, I took a course this semester called “Honors in Context”. Everyone in the program was required to take the course. We were told that it would be an exercise in group leadership and that each week a different member of the class would plan and facilitate a discussion based on that week’s assigned reading. Barring two weeks when the readings were excerpts from David McCullough’s book “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris”, all of the readings were articles from Harper’s Magazine. For the purposes of this course, we were all required to take out a subscription to the magazine. The articles discussed a variety of social issues, such as how Walmart affects small business owners, the dangers and benefits of hydraulic fracturing, illegal immigration, and public housing. The articles had a decidedly leftist slant to them and frequently described corporations as heartless and harmful to the working class. I found this mildly irritating, but nowhere near as frustrating as the class discussions.
Of the nine students in the class, only myself and one other student, Chris, were even vaguely conservative. The course was moderated by two professors, one from the English department and one from Political Science. They were both exceedingly liberal. My classmates frequently disagreed with and debated the points that Chris and I made, but debate was a main point of the class, so I enjoyed it. What I did not enjoy was the professors inserting themselves into the discussions and voicing their opinions, which they had explicitly said on the first day of class that they would not do. Mostly, the English teacher kept out of the discussion, but was sometimes unable to withhold a smirk or giggle at a statement with which he disagreed. The Political Science teacher reacted in a much more open way. She would grimace nearly every time Chris or I said a word, often accompanied with an eye roll. At least once each day, she would reply to one of our remarks, explaining why our beliefs were wrong or steering the conversation in a different direction. Though she was at least civil to me, she was openly belligerent to Chris, so much so that several of our classmates stepped into the discussion to divert her attention from him, even though they agreed with her politically. The class grade is 50% participation based, so we kept talking, but she clearly tried to make it as uncomfortable for us as she could. At times, she would simply glare at us for minutes on end, even when we weren’t speaking.
For the last day of class, we were asked to write a reflection regarding what we thought of the course, how we felt the readings connected, and what we had learned. In my reflection, I stated that“the reading materials chosen were designed to get us thinking about a variety of issues within our community and how we can become more engaged in problem solving and other aspects of living within our society”. During the final discussion, the English professor commented that there is “an interdependence [between all humans] that we are awkward sometimes at defining”. In a way, I agree with this. All men are naturally independent beings and sometimes it is hard to balance that independence with appropriate action within society. This societal living often results in problems such as the issues of poverty, immigration, and many others we discussed in class. Still, men chose to live in society because it was beneficial to them and allowed them to progress past their hunter-gatherer existence into greater productivity.
But then he used this remark as a springboard to his next point. This class, he said, tries to define that interdependence and asks the question: “what do we owe each other?” I believe that this question can be answered with the single word “respect”. All people should be treated as unique, valuable individuals, and nothing should be taken from our neighbors that is not given through voluntary exchange or mutual agreement. Needless to say, that wasn’t the answer he wanted.
One of my classmates said that she felt that “you rely on the other people around you to develop your talent” and thus we are all a part of our fellow man. There was a general expression of support for this viewpoint. The Political Science professor took this already disturbing statement and took it one step further by asking if we are called on to do more for society “because we have been granted more opportunities and better education than a garbage boy has”. The English professor clarified after everyone was quiet for a minute: “The right answer is yes, just so we’re all clear”.
My first objection to this should be obvious. They are training us to feel guilty for our own success. I understand that not everyone has the opportunity to attend a private university, even if they are exceedingly intelligent. I understand that some people are not as good at academics as others and would struggle in a college setting. I am glad that I am not in that situation and I am excited to use this opportunity at the University of Scranton to its fullest advantage. But in no way does this mean that I owe it to the rest of mankind to give them part of what I earn if my educational advantage brings me to a higher level of success.
Perhaps even more distressing is what this sentiment means for people of lesser education. People like this professor feel that it is necessary for educated people to take others under their wing and protect them. By expecting the well-educated to step in and fix problems, we are assuming that the maintenance workers and cabbies and small farmers cannot control their own lives. It is more degrading to think that people without college education need the help of the intellectual elite than to ask everyone to play an equal role in society. Yet expecting everyone to play an equal role in society and work toward solving its problems as much as their personal passions drive them to do is perceived as heartless, unfair, and cruel. That being said, the professor’s use of the term “garbage boy” in that question was apparently not heartless or offensive at all.
Somewhere toward the end of class our discussion turned to Boston. Both professors pointed out the “us vs. them” mentality that engenders so much hate and discrimination in this country. They said that they both feared that the bombing suspect would turn out to have ties to Islam because that would only make more problems for the innocent Muslims in America. I honestly do understand what they meant by this. I pray that this incident doesn’t cause further difficulty for anyone innocent, whatever their nationality or religion. Yet I find it truly disturbing that they had an idea of what sort of person they wanted the bomber to be.
The English professor said that as soon as news of the bombing was heard, “we all knew he was going to be either a disgruntled American teen or an Islamist extremist, either the Columbine kid or Osama bin Laden. And it turned out to be both.” First of all, no. We did not know that the bomber would fit into one of the two stereotypes that my professor apparently believes covers all people who commit mass violence in America. Secondly, these men were not disgruntled American teens. Yet the professor continued to elaborate on this point, saying that the motivation for the bombings was “as much about going after the jocks as going after American values.” This comment prompted an outpouring of sympathy from my classmates on behalf of Djokhar Tsarneav. He was just a teenager. He was misunderstood and didn’t fit in. How could the police have shot at a nineteen year old boy? Somehow, my classmates had begun to perceive Djokhar as a victim in this attack. It was almost as if they were trying to find an excuse for his behaviour. I cannot understand the mentality that makes American citizens pity the person who bombed their innocent countrymen. I cannot fathom why they want to twist the story to make Americans seem more at fault.
The professors rounded off the class by thanking us for our time and asking us what suggestions we had to improve the class in future semesters. Both Chris and I politely suggested that they intersperse readings from other sources beyond Harper’s. They smiled politely and said that they couldn’t predict what news articles would appear in the future and therefore wouldn’t be sure how to find such other sources. Clearly, they could simply look at past issues, just as they do with Harper’s, but I chose not to argue the point. I also chose not to request that in the future they stick to the original plan of not intervening in the discussions and that they should attempt not to single out students whose viewpoints differ from theirs. My reticence was rooted in the knowledge that my grade is based on how well I did my presentation and how frequently and thoughtfully I participated in class discussions. In other words, it is completely subjective.
I joined the University of Scranton’s Honors Program because I thought it would be a place where I could have meaningful conversations with like-minded students, where I would be able to explore my passions and ideas and open myself up to new experiences. Instead, I have found that the brightest minds at the school are being forced through a program that insists again and again that we owe our minds to society. Wealth is evil and success is shameful if not mixed with the appropriate amount of penitent efforts to help those who have not climbed as far. This is not what I had in mind for my college experience. I planned on being evaluated on my classwork, not my political beliefs. I expected to be taught facts, not coached to accept a philosophical premise I despise. Sadly, this indoctrination process is not unique to the University of Scranton. It is starting in elementary schools and goes all the way through college. Young minds with the potential for greatness are being daily trampled. Parents and students alike need to make it clear that schools are meant to teach and foster the passions of an individual, not to brainwash and indoctrinate them into a collectivist society.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

You wanna meet the "real me" now?

As my header and previous post may indicate, I'm a big Joss Whedon/Firefly fan. Sure, Joss is a big Progressive. No one is perfect, least of all, me.

In the Firefly episode "War Stories" a fictional Chinese "warrior poet"/tyrant named "Shan Yu" is quoted as having said
"Live with a man 40 years
share his house
his meals
speak on every subject
then tie him up and hold him over the volcano’s edge.
On that day, you will finally meet the man.”

It's no secret that I'm ambitious and have aspirations for higher office. The entire "Twittergate" scandal has acted as the proverbial "volcano's edge."

Politics is not just a hobby or interest for me. It is a passion that borders on obsession.

I have not always been the School Board director my hometown and community deserve.

During both my first and second school board elections, I was less than meticulous about my campaign finance reports.

This was not the first time I tweeted or commented on social media without first engaging my brain.

I have even taken some fire from the right for not being proactive enough and in some ways, that is fair criticism.
 
 I have not always been perfect, but I have always been honest. In the past, I tried to run away from my tweets or facebook postings rather than accept what I said and learn from the experience.

I believe our President would call this a "teachable moment".

I was a blogger before I was an elected official. From "Right From Lehigh County" back in my younger days to guest blogging at PAWatercooler.com and the LVPoliblog.

This time, when I got myself in trouble, my way of "running home to mamma" was to go back to the blogosphere and take my story right to the people who elected me. My version of using the bully pulpit.

Soon, I'll be making my own "whistle stop" stop tour around East Penn and go door to door so you can all meet "the real me" instead of what you read in the papers, campaign literature, or from my opponents. I encourage the public to come to this blog early and often to get my side of the story.

I should have been blogging and going door to door for years. My community deserves no less from their elected officials. Instead, for 6 years, instead of coming to you, I ran from my mistakes.

Well...
"...I aim to misbehave."

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (in the) Running to be America's Hottest Top Cop

Last year, I made the mistake of voting for Kathleen Kane for Attorney General. See, I'm not a big Tom Corbett fan and I had hoped that Ms. Kane would hold the Governor accountable and be an independent-moderate Democrat in the mold of former State Auditor General Jack Wagner. Wagner drove both Ed Spendell and Tom Corbett up a wall with his tireless dedication. He did a fine job. I didn't vote for him, but I respected him. He is currently one of the frontrunners to be the next Mayor of Pittsburgh. Since a Republican candidacy is pretty much DOA in any major city, the good people of Pittsburgh could do a lot worse.

During the 2012 Primary, Unions and other various progressive groups rallied to former Congressman Patrick Murphy and lambasted Kane for being anti-collective bargaining. Music to my ears!

I had no real issue with her Republican opponent, but on the few occasions that I met him, I felt he came off as a bit of a bully.

My vote went to Kane in November. Never again...well, maybe almost never.

In her short tenure in office, Kathleen Kane has decided to completely reject her oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and of Pennsylvania. The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in both of them. I cannot imagine this is playing too well in Kane's gun friendly home ground of NEPA.

Personally, I look forward to rectifying my 2012 mistake by voting for whomever the GOP puts up against her in 2016.

That said, it seems that Attorney General Kane is now in another race. The race to be the "hottest" Attorney General in America. She'd get my vote there, no question.

The "Final Four" are:
A.G. Kane gets my vote for those piercing eyes alone.


One of her "opponents", California Attorney General Kamala Harris was called the "best looking attorney general" in America by President Obama a few weeks back. He later apologized.

Over at my stalker's blog, I'm already in some hot water for previously commenting on Ms. Kane's attractiveness. Sure, it was made in a manner probably best suited to a locker room, but men are men and I didn't make the statement in my capacity as an elected official or to disrespect her in any way.

Still, were she unwed...
(...cause she's pretty.)

I respect Ms. Kane as an accomplished woman. I do not respect her refusal to uphold and defend our 2nd Amendment.

I don't understand why modern feminists say calling a woman attractive is a sign of disrespect. It's a complement.

Of course, I don't understand why they compare the abortion lobby to the NRA either. Abortions kill millions more in this country than guns ever have.

East Penn Invested Citizens and East Penn Chamber of Commerce to Host School Board Candidate Debate

On Tuesday, April 30th from 7-9pm the East Penn Chamber of Commerce and the "East Penn Invested Citizens" (another Union front group allied with "Citizens for Strong Communities") will host a meet the candidates night.

The event will take place at the Macungie Institute on Rt. 100 (510 Main St. Macungie).

All candidates have been invited to attend.

I'm not sure whether or not I'll be there (as a "reporter"/bottom feeding blogger, not a candidate). Since I am a sitting school board director, I feel I might have too much of a conflict of interest and I might be too biased. On the other hand...that doesn't really matter, does it? I'm not pretending to be objective.

We'll see. Either way, you owe it to yourself to go and be a well informed citizen!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lower Macungie Township Commissioner Candidate Debate Report

I don't live in Lower Macungie Township, but I do represent it as a member of the East Penn School Board. LMT was key to my 2011 re election.

As a member of the Lehigh County Republican Committee, I have a vested interest in the outcome of the election there. LMT is the 3rd largest municipality in the Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Bethlehem, then Lower Macungie Township). It is larger than the city of Easton.

In order for Republicans to win county-wide, they need to win Lower Macungie by a comfortable margin. It is still a majority R town, but Barack Obama managed to carry a few precincts in 2008 and 2012.

Democrats/Progressives/Unions know they need to "crack the cul-de-sacs" of Lower Macungie (as Fmr. Emmaus Councilwoman Joyce Marin said to me in 2006) if they are going to take over this key swing county.

I believe that is why the East Penn Public Union front-group "Citizens for Strong Communities" led by twice-failed State House candidate Patrick Slattery has taken such an interest in Lower Macungie elections in the last two cycles. More on that some other day...for now, the event at hand.

The League of Women Voters held a lovely debate this evening at the Lower Macungie Township Community Centre/Library. The debate began at 7PM and yours truly was there and livetweeted the whole thing.

It was an interesting event. Patrick Slanderou...I mean, Slattery, sat right in front of me.

East Penn School Board candidates Chris Donatelli and Garrett Rhoads were also there (both gentlemen live in Lower Mac. Township).

Almost all of the Commissioner candidates had some gaffes. None deadly, but will be interesting to see how it played out. Here's a summary of the debate as I saw it:

Opening statements (2 minutes)

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.): "My last name means oak tree. I'm originally from the Pocanos. Any other coal crackers here tonight? Once a coal cracker always a coal cracker! No? How many grandparents are there here tonight? A lot more of...." -moderator interrupts as his time has run out then allows him to go on anyway- "I've been a Republican for 47 years which is 46 years more than some of the other candidates (referring to Beitler and Higgins...sort of)."

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): Ryan gave a very polished "thank you all for coming...husband...businessman...father" introduction. A little light on substance, but that's ok. He got to some meat later on. Ryan is going to be Congressman some day. He hides his not-from-around-here accent a little better than Higgins does. He has the looks, resume, and political acumen. He was briefly a candidate for State Representative in 2012 in district 134. I considered entering the race myself but eventually backed former East Penn School Board Vice President, Rob Hamill. Political operative Ryan Mackenzie eventually went on to win the nomination and the seat.

Brian Higgins (R): Brian touted his experience on the planning commission and with the Lower Macungie Township Youth Association. We ran against each other in 2011 and he came rather uncomfortably close to defeating me in the November election. I simply relied on the R by my name to carry me through November and didn't go door to door. If I run for another term on School Board, that's not a mistake I will make again. Big if. Anyway... Brian is originally from New Jersey where taxes are too damn high. He suffers from the delusion that many East Penn newcomers have and that's that East Penn taxes are low. A quote of his from 2011 that I will not let him run away from "Paying taxes is patriotic".

Ron Beitler (R): Ron gave another very likeable "Thank you all for coming" intro. I actually DO like Ron and have conversed with him on a number of issues over the last year or so. His association with Slattery, Citizens for Strong Communities, and Brian Higgins makes me very nervous. He also was a Democratic County Committeeman til last year.

Roger Reis (R-Inc.): "Retired police captain, degree in public administration, lifelong Republican." I like Roger, and I've known him for a good many years. If I lived in LMT, I'd vote for him. That said, the one part of his background that I couldn't help but notice he left out was his role in former County Executive Jane Ervin's 70% tax increase when he was a Lehigh County Commissioner. Still, water under the bridge in my opinion. I supported him when he ran 4 years ago and supported him for Lehigh County Commissioner in 2007.

John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Not present. Represented by empty chair. No chance in hell of winning anyway.

Does the Township need a police force?

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): "This is a very complex issue. Too complex to cover in 2 minutes. Voters are split on this issue. I helped lead the way to have an independent survey. We need to take politics out of the equation and deal with data and facts."

Brian Higgins (R): "Police force is an interesting issue. It's a nice idea but at what cost? It might be cheaper in the long run to reimburse the state (police) than to have our own police force due to retirement and pension costs." There was some irony for me in Brian's answers. 2 years ago, he was backed by the Unions. Actually, he is this year too. "Citizens for Strong Communities" is nothing more than a Union front group.

Ron Beitler (R): "I support the study route. A survey (of citizens) is inherently emotional." Credit where it is due, Ron was the only one so far to take a stand on the issue. He ultimately came out against a township police force.

Roger Reis (R-Inc.): "This is an issue that's very important to me. The first thing we need to do as a township is determine if we are happy with the current level of service. If the answer is no, there will be a tax hike. I have no interest in being the first police chief of Lower Macungie Township."

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.): "The study will be completed in June. After that, you, as residents are going to tell us Commissioners what to do."

 John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Empty chair

Share your vision for the Kratzer Farm Property

Brian Higgins (R): "As part of LMYA, I am intimately involved in this issue. This is open space and we need to preserve it. Let's make it a Central Park for Lower Macungie Township...make it a shining jewel."

Ron Beitler (R): "This is an issue near and dear to me since I grew up next to the Kratzer farm. We should get the township out of the landlord business."

Roger Reis (R-Inc.): "We're not selling off the Kratzer farm. We're planning on selling 1.5 acres. We're trying to get the township out of the landlord business."

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.) "We're not selling off the Kratzer farm. There is no final decision yet about how the property is going to be used."       

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): "This is the first issue where you're starting to see a differentiation between the candidates. I believe in private property rights. We have to get the township out of the landlord business." Seriously, who the hell poll tested that line?

John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Empty chair

What are the three things you'd like to accomplish as a Commissioner?

Ron Beitler (R): "Smart growth...Transferable rights system in township. Land bank to make sure fair market value..." Stuff like this is kind of why he scares me. Agenda 21 much?

Roger Reis (R-Inc.): "First thing I'd like to see through is police study. Mr. Beitler tries to take credit for the study but those of us on the board ran on this four years ago." He's right, they did. I was there. "I'd like to see the Hamilton Crossings project (TIF) completed." Great, another Republican supports special tax privileges for big business. Why can't those who are building there homes or small businesses receive TIF type tax incentives from Government? Oh, right, because we don't have that kind of political clout/money. Ron Beitler supports this project as well as does..well...keep reading.

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.): "More economic development to maintain quality of life. Like the Hamilton Crossings project. Currently only brings in only $7k but will bring in (hundreds of thousands of dollars) if the TIF project is approved." Actually, Mr. Eichenberg, the Hamilton Crossings property doesn't bring in any revenue to the township right now because you have no property tax!

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): "Continue to respect taxpayers, green pathways project, smart growth -gag-, work with other townships on shared vision." Ugh, why are all these candidates buying into the Agenda 21 buzzword "Smart growth"? At least Ryan actually answered the question...and then some!

Brian Higgins (R): "Interesting question...(goes on to not answer question) Voters ask me what I stand for and I ask them what they want me to stand for (clearly the Mitt Romney campaign strategy). Does public works have enough people?"

John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Empty chair

Why was Willow Lane school opened without the proper signage etc?

Roger Reis (R-Inc.) "The School District is largely to blame. We're now talking to the School District and parent groups and taking care of things." He speaks the truth.

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.): "The prior board is to blame. So are Parkland and the East Penn School District (he said it. I have no idea why Parkland is to blame #weird)."

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): "Willow Lane was not originally built as a walking school." Sorry, Ryan, you're wrong on this one. I know that's the official LMT line, but that doesn't make it so.

Brian Higgins (R): "The School and Township need to work together better. Walking school or not, there were no signs for 2 years."

Ron Beitler (R): "I agree with Brian. Last year the East Penn Superintendent stepped in and prevented the district from ending busing..." No the hell he didn't. Willow Lane parents showed up, spoke up, and forced Dr. Seidenberger's hand. If they had not stepped up to the plate, the Administration along with their bobblehead majority on the board would have ended busing while including $70k+ in administrative raises.

John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Empty chair

What would you do with the Daytimers site?

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.): "Right now the property is zoned suburban residential. The Township needs to rezone it."

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): "I envision a mixed use centre for the township. It needs to be rezoned."

Brian Higgins (R): "I agree with Ryan...(goes on to attack Eichenberg over Allen Organ site)."   

Ron Beitler (R) "This issue is near and dear to my heart. I live next door. Many options..."

Roger Reis (R-Inc.): "What goes at the Daytimers sight should not be the government's decision. Government needs to get out of the way of business." I nearly stood up and cheered.

John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Empty chair

Do you think the Jaindl Development will be ultimately beneficial to LMT?

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): "This is a complex issue that we did not ask for or want. Jaindl submitted a quarry plan to protect his interests. Some may call it a bluff but we'll never know. There was overwhelming opposition to a quarry. If I had my druthers, it would have remained farmland. We did what we could to find a better plan."

Brian Higgins (R): "I don't know if this will ultimately be beneficial or not. I agree with Ryan. This has been a very fractious issue for the township that has cost more than money."

Ron Beitler (R): "Beneficial or not, that ship has sailed. Plan B was better than Plan A. I would have supported a quarry over plan B." Agree with him or not, saying that took balls. Points to Ron for saying that.

Roger Reis (R-Inc.): "This issue isn't as fractious as it is being portrayed (that's probably true). We ended up with a better plan than the original. Ron Beitler's lawsuit cost the taxpayers $135,000 and we won in every court."

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.): "May I have the question again? None of my fellow candidates answered the question. The issue is decided and in the past. Let's heal. Only time will tell if it's beneficial. I think it will be. It will bring jobs to the area."

John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Empty Chair

Do you support LMT continuing to have a zero percent tax rate?      

Brian Higgins (R): "No one running for office who is worth their salt would oppose continuing to have a zero percent tax rate (but in 2011, you said paying taxes was patriotic!)...in the future taxes may need to go up."

Ron Beitler (R): "Short answer is yes. Keep taxes as they are for as long as possible. All candidates now support Smart Growth. Smart Growth encourages the kind of growth that WE want (seriously, doesn't that scare you? hearing a candidate for public office say that? Scares me.)"

Roger Reis (R-Inc.): "I'd like to thank the previous two speakers for agreeing with our board's policy of maintaining a zero percent tax."

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.): "I've lived in Lower Macungie Township since 1984. In 1993, when the township reduced the tax rate from a half mil to zero, I spoke up against it. I asked if they were crazy. I'm all for lowering of taxes but I thought they should go to a quarter mil. Very hard to raise tax rates when they're set at zero. Will taxes go up? That depends on you, the residents. True, especially if they get this election wrong..."

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): "I am committed to maintaining a zero percent tax rate for as long as I'm a commissioner." I clapped, albeit rather quietly.

John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Empty Chair

Closing Statements    

Roger Reis (R-Inc.): "Thank you all...please vote to re elect Ryan Conrad, myself, and Ron Eichenberg. If you like it here, re elect this board."

Ron Beitler (R): "I want to start growing in a fiscally sustainable manner. How are we going to handle 10k new residents in at least 1k new units? How will we handle that runoff without smart growth? Will I vote for a tax increase if I don't have to? No."

Brian Higgins (R): "Thank you all. The process is for the people. I think all three incumbents are good men...public service is what I do. I changed my party affiliation the day after I lost my last election (to me). I believe in the Republican party values of low taxes and small government."

Ryan Conrad (R-Inc.): "Thank you all for coming. Thanks to the League of Women Voters for hosting the debate. Look at the record, look at the facts, and put aside the rhetoric. If you want a real Republican and someone who cares about the community, re elect me on May 21st."

Ron Eichenberg (R-Inc.): "The best vote each of you can make is to re elect the current board. We have a progressive community. -gag- I have experience and knowledge and the values of a Republican for 47 years. I am a pragmatic and moderate Conservative -double gag-"

John Yurasits (D/Union tool): Empty Chair

My Conclusions
This was a very well organized debate. There were lots of questions answered in a relatively short amount of time. The moderator and candidates were all professional and kept the debate going.

Ryan Conrad and Roger Reis were the clear winners. I think some of Beitler's comments (quarry and Willow Lane) are going to come back to bite him. 

Eichenberg had a rather bad debate (Parkland, "repeat the question" on Jaindl, botched opening). He seems like a genuinely nice man but just seemed out of touch.

Will Beitler or Higgins (or both) win in May? Difficult to say. Ron is likeable and Brian is a hell of a salesman. I think one MAY win, but not both. Incumbency is a powerful tool and it will work to Eichenberg and Reis' advantage. Higgins and Beitler both know Ryan Conrad has NO chance of losing.

LMT Commissioner Candidate Ron Beitler Issues a Rebuttal Re: An Email from a Lower Macungie Republican

Yesterday, I posted an email from Josh Cesare, a Lower Macungie Township resident and registered Republican on the race for Lower Macungie Township Commissioner's race. I received the following rebuttal from Ron Beitler, one of the 2 candidates Mr. Cesare criticized in his email:

Julian, respectfully if you or anyone is interested in things I've said... ya know....in THIS decade as opposed to an idealistic college student nearly 10 years ago there is a whole host of material on my blog at www.ronbeitler.com

I'm sure you can cherry pick things there to show I'm a moderate/independent. That's a label I wear proudly and in fact open conversations with when I'm door knocking. The cherry picking is obnoxious. You of all people should know better then anyone else how unfair that is.... 

Yup, supported Slattery because he's a friend of mine and I preferred a local person. I cover that on my patch blog. After Slattery dropped I supported Mackenzie because I viewed Reynard as a one issue candidate and I appreciated Mackenzie's work on entitlement reform. If you would like to see more of my thoughts on entitlement reform one of the national issues I am most passionate about I'd be happy to send you emails I wrote to Doug Reichley's office 4 years ago on multiple occasions.

But back to this, since it looks like Conrad has successfully taken the focus off township issues... as I'm guessing he's motivated to flex his political campaign muscles to the would be King makers of the County Party by literally carrying the two people I am focused on removing Eichenberg and Reis on his back I guess I'll have to devote time to talking about this nonsense. So win for him I guess?

As far as my (R) credentials if it comes up tomorrow I'd be happy to challenge any of the incumbents to take the project smart vote political courage test.

For voters who tie their hands behind their backs and vote locally on broad national issues sure, I'll win some and I'll lose some but I'm willing to do that. The results of the test would show:

I'm pro life and fiercely states rights (my basis for opposing Obamacare) and a physically secure the border but leave the door open for children of illegals who are here through no fault of their own kinda guy....But I'm also a Toomey approach to Gun Control and an environmentalist. So go figure. 

In some ways I know for a fact I'm more conservative then the incumbents. I'm wondering if Conrad is willing to commit in writing to his position on broad national issues. I'm thinking no, since he has his sights on higher office and being the strategist he is wouldn't want to pigeon hole himself. I the other hand, don't care since I have no desire to run for anything except township commissioner. 

If they want to make it about party affiliation and views on national issues that's fine with me but lets show ALL our cards. Total disclosure. I think you can appreciate that Julian.

--
Ron Beitler 4 LMT
Vote Higgins & Beitler on May 21st.

In the interest of fairness, I thought I'd share Mr. Beitler's email with my readers. I like Ron. I frequently disagree with him, but his heart is usually in the right place. The whole race for LMT Commissioner is a mess.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lehigh Valley Tea Party Education Committee to Host Meeting This Friday!

I received this invite via email. I tentatively plan to attend, work schedule permitting.

NOTE:  FIRST MEETING OF LEHIGH VALLEY TEA PARTY EDUCATION Committee IS : 

DATE: APRIL 26TH, 2013 (FRIDAY) 

TIME: START PROMPTLY AT 6:00PM (PLEASE ARRIVE EARLY IF WANTING TO SHARE A MEAL OR SNACK WITH US!)  NO FEE FOR USE OF FACILITY!

 LOCATION:   BORDERLINE RESTAURANT,  2100 W.UNION BLVD, ALLENTOWN, PA 18018


LVTP Meeting Agenda:

Opening Ceremony:   Pledge  and Prayer

Sign in sheet and short introduction

TAKE A SHORT COMMON CORE TEST OUR CHILDREN ARE TAKING!

1st part:  Basic information lesson on how and where to research information!  Stress keep copy of information and to email to others to have if they DECIDED TO ERASE THE INFO!

2nd:  Short film on an issue we need to get out there to the public and our representatives!

3rd is INSTRUCTION on the following topics!   NOTE: ONLY ONE IS CARRIED OUT PER MEETING! 

SESSION 1;  WHAT IS COMMON CORE/AGENDA 21?  HOW ARE THEY CONNECTED? HOW DO I PROVE THIS?

SESSION 2: We take a look at the money trails and how it benefits the players of the game? How it infiltrated PUBLIC,  PRIVATE (CHARTER AND RELIGiOUS ) SCHOOLS, and some home schooling!!

SESSION 3:  Grants and how to read them in order to be able to connect them to AGENDA 21/Common Core!!

SESSION 4:  REAL AGENDA (MAIN OUTCOME) of COMMON CORE AND STANDARDIZED TESTING!!  (Deal with the data mining collection and how it breaks our privacy rights) !

SESSION 5: How are the 50 states handling this?  Share names of representatives and senators fighting this , with some of their words and bills !  We will discuss where it is at as far as failure and SUCCESS?  Compare it to PA. and discuss what we can do to get ours through!

SESSION 6:  Discuss other groups fighting for and against COMMON CORE?

SESSION 7:  Discuss parental issues, students issues! 

SESSION 8: Discuss teacher's issues and concerns!

SESSION 9: Where is the Constitution broken? How did they do it?  What can we do to change this?

SESSION 9:  Look at the affects of standardized testing and how it is affecting INTERNATIONAL COUNTRIES!! What are they doing about it!


NOTE:  MY GOAL IS TO HAVE SOME SPEAKERS CONCERNING THESE SUBJECTS WE DISCUSS FORM OUR UMBRELLA GROUP WE FORMED OR OTHER CONGRESS MEMBERS  FIGHTING THIS , OR OTHER GROUPS DOING WHAT WE ARE DOING.  I ALSO INVITED PRIVATE PATRIOTS WANTING TO SHARE!

So, I want to invite everyone to come and participate!  I am really excited because this is one subject that unites teachers, students, parents, school boards, unions, administration, and taxpayers "republicans, democrats, and all some of the other parties"  tea party and occupy wall streeters!  

I am looking forward to meeting all of you!  I feel very positive that we can turn this around! 

Sincerely yours,

 Janice Bowman
 If I am able to attend, I'll post a report here.

An Email From a Lower Macungie Republican

When I got home last night, I received an email from Lower Macungie Township resident (and registered Republican) Josh Cesare on the race for LMT Commissioner. I have a good many thoughts on this race myself and I will opine in the not-too-distant future. I asked Josh if he had any objection to me posting his email here and he replied that he did not. This email is not edited by me in any way though in the interest of transparency, I must confess I generally agree with the content.

Dear Fellow Lower Macungie Republicans,

As you know, there is a competitive election in the Republican primary for Lower Macungie Township Commissioner on May 21. Five Republicans are running for three seats. The incumbent candidates include Ryan Conrad, Ron Eichenberg and Roger Reis. The other candidates are Ron Beitler and Brian Higgins. Although I understand the East Penn Republican Committee is not making endorsements in the race, I wanted to bring to your attention some important facts concerning two of the candidates for your consideration.
Specifically, I want you to know that candidates Beitler and Higgins are life-long Democrats who’ve recently turned Republican to try and get elected in Lower Macungie. As a loyal Republican, I personally welcome when Democrats join the Republican Party for the right reasons. But, I do have serious concern when Democrats switch parties and put an “R” behind their name not because they believe in the Republican Party principles, but because they are opportunistic and want to try and win an election. All you have to do is look at the facts behind these two candidates to better understand they aren’t really interested in the Republican Party principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and respect for our founding principles.
Higgins ran as a Democrat for East Penn School Board in 2011 and lost his election. On the Lower Macungie Patch, he said he would support a tax increases if he were elected to the School Board. He also wouldn’t sign a ‘no tax hike’ pledge. The other candidate, Beitler, headed up the Young Democrats in college where he was quoted as calling America “the bully of the world.” He’s even publicly supported Democrats like Patrick Slattery who lost to Republican Representative Ryan Mackenzie last year.
I recently learned that Democrat Bill Hansell, Lehigh County Executive, is hosting an event at his home for these two candidates. Would real Republicans participate in a reception hosted by a big-time Democrat heading into the primary?
These aren’t opinions, these are fact. And, as real Republicans in Lower Macungie we owe it to our fellow Republican voters to expose who these candidates are and what they really stand for. I’ll be supporting real Republicans, like Ryan Conrad, with a demonstrated record of being involved with the Republican Party and subscribing to the Party’s principles. I encourage you to do the same.
Sincerely,
Josh Cesare
Lower Macungie Republican

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lower Macungie Township Candidates Debate this Wednesday!

The candidates for Township Commissioner in the upcoming May 21st primary have been invited to participate in a candidates night April 24th, at 7pm at the Lower Macungie Township Community Center Library.

Work schedule permitting, I will attend this candidates night and do a report. I have a good bit to say about this race.

And Now, the Rest of the Story: 4-22-2013 Meeting Roundup

Apologies to the late, great Paul Harvey for hijacking his catchphrase. While I was growing up, I always loved listening to him with my grandfather on 1470, back when they were an oldies station. Good times (and great oldies)!

On Saturday, I posted a copy of the agenda and how I planned to vote. Things went more or less as I planned.

Here's a quick rundown:

1.) Pledge of Allegiance- We observed a moment of silence for the tragedy in Boston.

2.) Requests to Address the Board
     - John Donches of Emmaus announced that the Concerned East Penn Taxpayer's Association will be hosting a candidates night on Tuesday May 14th. I'll post more on this at a later date
     - Several parents spoke on the situation with Willow Lane Transportation. One parent added that the board should revamp it's "antiquated" communication procedures and should instead have a more interactive session like Lower Macungie Township does. Amen! I've been saying that for years and I will introduce some suggested policy changes to facilitate this in the future.

3.) Approval of Minutes- This item was unanimously approved

4.) SGA Report- The Student Government representatives gave a report on the usual school dances etc. I asked them to bring suggestions to the board about the budget as we move into the budget season. They said they would. Our SGA represents the needs of the students and they know as well as anyone what we need in the High School and we should look to them for input. I realize as a Conservative this could be asking for trouble, but when we're sitting on millions in surplus, we can meet the needs of our students without raising taxes. Of this, I am confident!

5.) NSBA Technology Visit Overview

6.) Report of the Superintendent-
     - Dr. Seidenberger dropped the bombshell that there will likely be no tax increase in this year's budget. More on that here.
    -The Personnel Item was unanimously approved.

7.) Carbon Lehigh and Intermediate Unit Facilities Plan Committee Report- This item was unanimously approved.

8.) Lehigh Career and Technical Institute Update

9.) Legislative Update- Board President Ballard speculated as to why items such as prevailing wage languish in the Republican Majority legislature. I suggested anyone who was curious look at the campaign finance reports of Republican House Caucus leaders such as Sam Smith, Mike Turzai, and Mike Vereb along with Senate Republican Leaders Joe Scarnati, Dominic Pileggi, and the Lehigh Valley's very own Pat Browne. They take millions of dollars of Union money and they don't bite the hand that feeds them. Sad that We the People have yet to wise up and vote them out in favor of officials who stand up for the Taxpayers, not the Union leaches.

10.)  Business Operations
      1.) Bid Opening Report
      2.) Approval of Bill List- As usual, Ms. Donches and I abstained.
      3.) Treasurer's Report- This item was unanimously approved
      4.) GASB 45 Valuation and Related Services Agreement- This item was withdrawn and will not reappear til sometime in June
      5.) Appointment of Auditor- Ms. Donches questioned why this was not bid out. While I agree with her that it should be in the future, I approved this item for this year. Mr. Gorman openly states that he doesn't trust the board or the administration. I like that. Still, if we can bid this out in the future and save some money, we should do so. This item was approved 8-1 with Ms. Donches voting no...well, technically 7-1-1 since Ms. Birdcell forgot to call on Mike Policano to ask him for his vote. Apparently Mike and I were the only ones to notice. He told me he'd have voted for it anyway...still. Really?
     6.) Appointment of Architects for Professional Services for the Roof Replacement at Lincoln School- This item was unanimously approved.
    7.) A Resolution for Designation of Millage Rates Following County-wide Reassessment of Real Estate Values- This item was unanimously approved.
    8.) Capital Reserve Fund Transfer- This item was unanimously approved. Ms. Donches had a few questions about why this money (just over $1,000,000) should be placed in the Capital Reserve Fund instead of remaining in the General Fund where the Board and the administration would have more flexibility in how to use the funds. I've opposed putting money from bond refinancing in the Capital Reserve Fund before, but I supported it in this case. We have about $5 million in pending Capital Projects, including the Lincoln Elementary Roof project we approved tonight and only have $1.9 million in the Capital Reserve Fund. In this case, I think it's appropriate, especially in light of the budget expectations for this year.
     9.) Disbursement of Funds- This item was unanimously approved.
     10.) Budget Transfers- This item was unanimously approved.
     11.) Willow Lane Transportation Committee- I withdrew this resolution.

11.) Announcements- Dr. Bacher announced that the TIF Committee has issued their report. I continue to oppose the TIF proposal. More on that later this week or possibly early next.
- I issued my statement of thanks to my fellow board members for not drafting a resolution of censure against me.

12.) Adjourn(!)

Surprise! There Will (Likely) be No Tax Hike in East Penn This Year!

During his administrative update tonight, Dr. Seidenberger dropped what will probably be viewed as a bombshell: There will be no tax increase in this year's budget.

He did hedge just the slightest bit saying that there could be surprises in the state budget etc.

I predicted this months ago (later, I'll scour my twitter account for proof...I think I tweeted this at some point. If not, you'll just have to take my word for it).

We didn't NEED a tax increase last year. Ms. Donches and I both said as much and provided several budget alternatives. Surprise surprise, we ended up with $3 million extra...just as Lynn and I said we would. I do love a good I told you so!

I'm thrilled at this development and I thanked Tom for giving me a budget I could finally vote for...but let's not pretend this is anything more than a political move by the administration to try to save its bobblehead majority on the board.

Just as the Teacher's Union took a pay freeze before the election 2 years ago to try to stop a Conservative slate from winning, the administration is now coming in with a zero budget to influence this year's election.

Not to worry, a zero tax increase budget is a good start but I plan to look for further cuts to propose in order to give taxpayers a tax cut budget. Something they haven't had in roughly 2 decades.

My first suggestion? A 10 percent cut in the administrative budget.

Willow Lane Parental Committee to be Formed!

I submitted a resolution to form a Willow Lane Transportation Parental Committee and it appeared on tonight's agenda.

When we sat down and began the meeting, the board found a copy of the following letter from Willow Lane Elementary School Principal Tony Moyer to an interested parent.

Dear Mrs. (Name redacted out of respect for privacy),

Several weeks ago, you participated in the East Penn School District transportation survey for Willow Lane Elementary School. You indicated that you were willing to serve on a parent committee to refine our new drop off and pick up procedures for the 2013/2014 school year. I intend to include 10 parent participants (2 parents from each of the following developments: Beaumont at Brookside, Brandywine Village I and II, Brookside Farms, and Graymoor). The names for the committee will be selected at a public drawing at Willow Lane Elementary School on April 26, 2013 at 12:00 PM. Feel free to join me for the drawing. After the names are drawn, I will send another letter confirming your participation on the committee along with the first meeting date.

Don't hesitate to contact me with questions.

Sincerely,

Dr. Anthony N. Moyer
Principal
Willow Lane Elementary 
Given this development, I withdrew my resolution from the agenda. In my view, this is not the perfect, ideal committee where stakeholders from the Board and Township would also take part, but politics is the art of reaching "good enough" and for me, this passed that requirement. I did (and do) ask that parents continue to keep me informed on the situation and whether their needs and concerns are being met.

If we're going to stop busing the kids, we need to do it right and we need the parents to feel that their children will be safe. 

My Statement at the End of Tonight's Meeting

At the 4-8-2013 meeting of the East Penn School Board, 4 parents asked for my censure. That didn't happen. At the end of tonight's school board meeting, I thanked my fellow school board directors for not giving in to the calls to attempt to chill my First Amendment rights.

The following is a copy of my statement:

"I'd like to take a moment to thank my fellow board members.

Last meeting, you were asked to draft a resolution of censure against me for comments I made on social media. I know there may be one or two of you who don't much care for me personally and I frequently disagree with most of you politically. 

I have not always been a perfect board member but I always strove to be an honest one. I thank you for giving me the freedom to continue being honest about what I believe, even when you disagree. It speaks highly of your character and your respect for the First Amendment.

In return, I owe it to you, my colleagues, and to the public, to be more circumspect in the way I express my beliefs in the public domain. Being honest does not mean I should fail to think before I type. 

Once again, my thanks to all of you."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Meeting Agenda Items and Planned Votes for 4-22-2013

1.) Call to Order and Pledge of Allegiance

2.) Requests to Address the Board

3.) Approval of Minutes- I plan to vote in favor of this item

4.) Student Government Association Report

5.) Nation School Boards Association Technology Visit Overview

6.) Report of the Superintendent
     1.) District Update
     2.) Personnel- I plan to vote in favor of this item

7.) Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit
     Resolved: That the East Penn Board of School Directors Approve the 2013-2014 Facilities Plan Committee Report that was adopted by the CLIU Facilities Plan Committee on February 22, 2013. In addition, the Board reaffirms its commitment to the original construct of the Facilities Planning, approved November 1, 1989, which consists of a series of prioritized inquiries to be considered in determining the future locations of the CLIU and school district special education classes.
I plan to vote in favor of this item

8.) Lehigh Career and Technical Institute

9.) Legislative Report

10.) Business Operations
     1.) Bid Opening Report- General School Supplies
     2.) Approval of Bill List- Until Ms. Donches receives the information she has asked for, I will continue to join her in abstaining on this vote
     3.) Treasurer's Report- I plan to vote in favor of this item
     4.) GASB 45 Valuation and Related Services Agreement- While I will wait to hear more information during discussion on Monday night, I tentatively plan to vote in favor of this item
     5.) Appointment of Auditor- I tentatively plan to vote in favor of this item
     6.) Appointment of Architects for Professional Services for the Roof Replacement at Lincoln School- I plan to vote in favor of this item
     7.) A Resolution for Designation of Millage Rates Following County-wide Reassessment of Real Estate Values
     Whereas, the Lehigh County Board of Assessors completed a county-wide revision of assessment of real property values in 2012; and

     Whereas, the East Penn School District is required, pursuant to 53 P.S. 6926.327, to reduce its tax rate in the year following such a county-wide reassessment for the purpose of having the percentage increase in taxes levied for the year following the reassessment to be less than or equal to the index for the preceding year notwithstanding the increased valuations of real property under the revised assessment.
    NOW THEREFORE, it is hereby resolved that reducing the fixed rate from 46.75 mills to 16.1259 mills will accomplish the requirements of 53 PS. 6926.327, and the rate is hereby so reduced.
 This resolution shall become effective July 1, 2013.
 I tentatively plan to vote in favor of this item
   8.) Capital Reserve Fund Transfer- I tentatively plan to vote in favor of this item
   9.) Disbursement of Funds- I plan to vote in favor if this item
   10.) Budget Transfers- I plan to vote in favor of this item
   11.) Willow Lane Transportation Committee
   Resolved, That the East Penn School District Board of Directors instruct the administration to form a Willow Lane Transportation Committee to be comprised of but not necessarily limited to, representatives from the administration, Board of Directors, Willow Lane parents, and Lower Macungie Township should the township choose to be part of the Committee
I submitted this resolution (as I promised I would do before the 4-8-2013 meeting ) since I was informed by concerned parents that the promised Willow Lane parent committee has yet to be formed or meet.

The purpose of this committee will be to receive input and have a dialogue with parents who will be affected by the possible pending change in transportation policy by the district so that all major safety concerns are heard and handled in a comprehensive manor.

This is similar to a resolution that I requested at the February 25th, 2012 Board Meeting and later withdrew in hopes that progress would be made with the promised parental committee. At the time, I reserved the right to reintroduce the resolution at a later date.

11.) Announcements

12.) Adjourn

STOLZ NOTES
On several of the items, I note that I plan to or tentatively plan to vote in favor of the item in question. Should I decide to change my vote prior to the meeting on Monday, I will post an update and an explanation on this blog. Of course, I reserve the right to change my vote at the meeting subject to the content of the discussion and debate. I change my mind with the facts!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why I Do Not Support a "Day of Silence" Protest by Proponents of LGBT Equality

...no, not because I'm a hateful, vile, right-wing religious nutjob.

On Friday (today, by the time most of you read this), students in schools across America will take part in a "Day of Silence" protest against bullying of their LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) colleagues.

They have actually borrowed this method of protest from Pro-Life activists. I myself took part in a Pro-Life day of silence back when I was in school.

The general idea is that those who support their colleagues who lead an alternative lifestyle join them in solidarity and don't speak for an entire day. Some wear duct-tape over their mouths and some simply remain silent.

I have been asked by some of my more Conservative constituents and associates to speak out against this.

Problem is, I actually oppose bullying of students for ANY reason. As someone who was frequently a target of bullying (mostly in private school, before I came to East Penn), I sympathize with those who are victims of adolescent cruelty.
 .
I don't have to personally approve of a lifestyle to recognize someone's right to live it.

Others have said that this is unfair to their fellow students who have to answer questions and participate in class.

I'm sorry, political speech is political speech. You don't lose your right to it just because you're under 18, especially in a Government school. Freedom of political expression is something that needs to be encouraged in these youngsters no matter what their political leanings.

Heck, I wore American Flag shirts (still do, actually) and covered myself in stickers and campaign buttons on election days. I'm sure I pissed off a fair few of my classmates.

Being quiet and non-disruptive in class isn't unfair. It's usually expected behavior (and perhaps behavior I myself should have observed a little more often)!

My problem with a "Day of Silence" to protest bullying is that there is already too much silence! If you see someone being bullied, stand up for them. Speak out against bullying, don't remain silent. Report it to a teacher or administrator. We have good teachers and staff that care in East Penn. It's not being a rat or a tattle-tale, it's doing the right thing and standing up for your friends.

I suggest to those observing a day of silence today, do not be silent. Do not be afraid of who you are or what you believe, no matter what that is. Proclaim it loudly and proudly to the whole world. Stand up for your rights and equality and help your friends and classmates do the same.

No Resolution to Censure on 4-22-2013 Agenda

Four parents asked for my censure or resignation at the 4-08 meeting of the East Penn School Board.

Hillary Smith, whose twitter handle is "MacungieDems" called my statements "vile", as well as "sexist", and all other manner of typical Progressive smears against Conservatives. Curiously, she herself "protects" her tweets to conceal them from the public. Disagree with me all you want, at least my tweets are out there for everyone to judge.

Claire Kowalchik asked the board to draft a resolution of censure me. Ms. Kowalchik is a regular attendee of East Penn School Board meetings. She previously spoke in favour of books with strong adult content remaining on the required summer reading list for 13-16 year olds. Freedom of speech for me but not for thee it would seem. Ms. Kowalchik, has also said that she will not support any school board director who doesn't vote to raise taxes.

A third speaker spent half her time attacking me and half speaking out on behalf of one of our Unions.

Yes, absolutely impartial, concerned parents.

I will concede, I do need to be more careful with what I say in the public domain. I am a candidate and an elected official and I should be held to a higher standard. That said, I am glad my fellow board members, even those who disagree with me on a regular basis, decided not to join this blatantly political bit of character assassination. It speaks highly of their respect for the 1st Amendment.

Informational Note: A resolution of censure by the board would have absolutely no effect other than acting as a symbolic slap on the wrist. Given my usual, adversarial position to the majority on the board, they might well have to censure me on a weekly basis!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

East Penn Area Republican Committee Questionnaire and Candidate Responses

As part of the endorsement process, the East Penn Area Republican Committee submitted a list of questions to the candidates in advance and had their responses printed out for us committeefolk to peruse as the night went on.

The questions were as follows:

1) What is your stance on support for charter, private and parochial schools and how they might interact with the current public schools?

2) Last Fall a parent expressed concern about the use of The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test and Prep as part of the curriculum. How would you have addressed this issue at the time and what, if any, changes would you make in the future?


3) How do you perceive East Penn can accommodate anticipated population growth, especially in Lower Macungie, without overburdening the tax payers in the rest of the School District?


4) If elected, how to you propose to reduce or control spending in the District?


5) Since you will be involved with the next round of contract negotiations what would you like to see happen?


6) Are you familiar with Common Core and is East Penn using this data collection system? What aspects do you like/dislike? (ed. note http://www.pdesas.org/standard/commoncore)

Here are the responses that were received by the committee:

Chris Donatelli
 1) What is your stance on support for charter, private and parochial schools and how they might interact with the current public schools?

It is my opinion that parents should have freedom of choice when it comes to the education of their children.

2) Last Fall a parent expressed concern about the use of The electric Cool-aid Acid Test and Prep as part of the curriculum. How would you have addressed this issue at the time and what, if any, changes would you make in the future?

I would refrain from immediate comment on any topic of concern until I could review and become familiar with it.
Changes or updates to the currently approved curriculum would be presented to the school board for their review and comment.

3) How do you perceive East Penn can accommodate anticipated population growth, especially in Lower Macungie, without overburdening the tax payers in the rest of the School District?

Growth of the tax base goes hand in hand with growth of the community. Our industrial growth helps, as well.
If it has been decided a new facility or expansion is needed, the contract should include a clause that penalizes the contractor for poor performance and provides an incentive to save the district money.
Look for other ways to save money. We need to stop thinking the same way and start to think outside the box. Possibly eliminate the need to build by arranging for a grade level with fewer kids to be moved to a school or schools with additional space making an opening for growth for another grade in its school. Look at build v. purchasing an existing structure or even leasing a building.

4) If elected, how to you propose to reduce or control spending in the District?

In regards to the annual budget, a preliminary budget should be presented to the board for review in a timely manner. The board should be able to determine costs that benefit the education of the children and remove wasteful spending.
Expenditures should be presented to the board for review. The board should make sure Best Value Practices are in place; not all budgeted items need be purchased just to use up the budget.

5) Since you will be involved with the next round of contract negotiations what would you like to see happen?

Eliminate ½ day Wednesday for grade schools.
Address pay and pensions; make sure they are in line with private industry or the tax payer.
Request concessions – This is not unheard of in private industry. When the economy was good, much was given. Now we are in the worst economic downturn since the great depression, it is time for reciprocity

6) Are you familiar with Common Core and is East Penn using this data collection system? What aspects do you like/dislike? (ed. note http://www.pdesas.org/standard/commoncore)

I do not agree with any programs mandated by the Federal gov’t. They take away the teachers ability to be dynamic in the classroom. A dynamic teacher will always have the attention of the students, in turn the students will learn.
Every Federal gov’t education program fails and a new one is introduced; each seems to be worse than the previous. Common Core is just the next in a generation of programs to replace the failed “No Child Left Behind”.

Alan Earnshaw
  1) What is your stance on support for charter, private and parochial schools and how they might interact with the current public schools?

Charter schools, private schools, and parochial schools all have their place within the education ecosystem. Public schools, with few exceptions, offer an outstanding education for students, preparing them effectively and efficiently for continuing education in college or trade schools or for directly entering the workforce or the military. For some students and their families, a private or charter school is the best option, and I fully support their right to make that selection.
The points of disagreement around these alternatives generally fall into questions of performance (do alternatives outperform public schools?) and funding (whether and how public dollars should be used to support alternatives to the public schools).
When comparing performance of schools, we rely on student performance on standardized tests (PSSA, SAT, NAEP, and Advanced Placement, primarily). These are a deeply flawed measure of student learning, but they are the only criteria by which legislators have chosen to measure school performance, so I will use it here.
Private and parochial schools are not required to administer the PSSA tests, and they do not use them. There is, therefore, no direct comparison to public schools. When comparing SAT scores, students at private and parochial schools generally score higher than the local public schools. When adjusted for economic factors (the number of students coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds), some studies have shown that public schools outperform private and parochial schools, some have shown no statistically significant difference in performance, and some have shown that private and parochial schools outperform public schools.
Studies comparing traditional public schools to charter schools have consistently shown that brick and mortar charter schools perform at the same level as the public schools from which their students are drawn and that cyber charter schools consistently and significantly underperform traditional public schools.
The Charter School Law explains the intent of the legislature for charter schools:
1. Improve pupil learning.
2. Increase learning opportunities for all pupils.
3. Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods.
4. Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site.
5. Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.
6. Hold the schools established under this act accountable for meeting measurable academic standards and provide the school with a method to establish accountability systems.
Some brick and mortar schools have done a very good job of employing innovative teaching methods, and I applaud their efforts. The East Penn School District has partnered with the Seven Generations Charter School in Emmaus, completing a thorough analysis of the performance of the school, providing feedback on areas of weakness, and sharing professional learning opportunities for the Seven Generations faculty. I will continue encouraging this attitude of partnership and will vote to renew their charter as long as they continue to provide strong learning opportunities for their students and meet the provisions of their charter.
If the district receives an application for another brick and mortar charter school, I will give it fair consideration and evaluate the application using the criteria outlined in the Charter School Law. I initially voted against the Seven Generations charter because they had not met the requirements of the law. When they revised their charter to correct the defects, I voted to approve the charter. I would do the same for any application.
Cyber charter schools are another matter entirely. They are all failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind. By all accounts, they are providing an inferior education for students. While the schools themselves are non-profit entities, they are operated by for-profit management companies that are neglecting the educational needs of their students to maximize their profits. Until they demonstrate significant improvements in student performance, I would not support the creation of any new cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania.
Funding for private and parochial schools is currently borne entirely by the students and their families. I support this funding mechanism. Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads, “No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”
Some proponents of parochial and private schools have advocated that funding should “follow the student.” This argument is flawed in several key ways:
1. Property and earned income taxes paid are not linked to the cost of educating the students in the household.
2. State funding is not allocated to districts by formula. (Pennsylvania is one of only three states that has no funding formula.) Since the funding is not determined by formula, how can state funding be appropriately allocated to private and parochial schools?
3. Public education was established in Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution: “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” As a required institution of the Commonwealth, the costs of public education should be borne by society as a whole, not by the students and their families.
Therefore, if state or local funding is to “follow the student,” the Legislature would need to make other provisions for “providing for” the public education system.
The funding mechanisms for charter schools are in need of reform. Funding for charter schools is based on the spending in the home district of each student. Charter schools, therefore, receive less money for students from Allentown and more money for students from Salisbury than for students from East Penn. And yet they receive the same education at the charter school. To be fair and equitable, funding should be based on a formula that considers the costs required to educate a student of the charter school.
Funding concerns are even worse for cyber charter schools. East Penn currently has a cyber education option that costs district taxpayers about $4,500 per student per year. Tuition to a cyber charter school for East Penn is over $8,800 per student per year. Shouldn’t a cyber charter school be able to operate at least as cost-effectively as a public school’s cyber option?
Currently, the law requires public school districts to bus students to charter schools. If the district provides transportation to its own non-special education students, it must also transport private and parochial school students to schools within 10 miles of the district border. I would prefer to see the distance measured from the student’s home, perhaps 10 miles from the student’s home or the distance to the assigned public school, whichever is greater.

2) Last Fall a parent expressed concern about the use of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Prep as part of the curriculum. How would you have addressed this issue at the time and what, if any, changes would you make in the future?

The East Penn School District has a policy, #109, that permits any resident to challenge materials used in the curriculum or kept in the libraries. There is a well-defined procedure for handling these challenges. It begins with the resident meeting with an administrator, normally the building principal. If they cannot agree to a resolution of the challenge, a committee is formed to study the materials and make a recommendation to the board. The committee includes the administrator, affected teachers, librarians, a board member, and two members of the general public, preferably including the person who lodged the complaint.
I fully supported this process last fall, and I believe the matter came to an appropriate resolution. I believe this process continues to offer the public a fair way to review the materials in question, giving full consideration to their merit—or lack thereof—as a whole work, not a few paragraphs taken out of context.

3) How do you perceive East Penn can accommodate anticipated population growth, especially in Lower Macungie, without overburdening the tax payers in the rest of the School District?

The costs of public education are borne by all taxpayers within the district. There is no provision in the law for providing differential tax rates by municipality, nor does the law allow a school district to charge impact fees to developers. School districts also have no voice in approving or denying zoning changes or building permits. About three years ago, school board members from across Lehigh County met with our legislators and asked them to sponsor legislation that would enable school districts to charge impact fees to developers. The legislation was not taken up for consideration by the legislature.
Since we have no way to limit or control growth and no way to force developers to share in the cost of education, we are only able to react to new students moving into the district. If and when necessary, we will hire teachers, add bus routes, and construct new schools to accommodate increases in student population, and these costs will be shared by all residents of the district.

4) If elected, how to you propose to reduce or control spending in the District?

The district has done an excellent job of controlling the growth of spending in the district. When I was elected in 2001, East Penn was 156th of 501 school districts in per student spending, 3.2% above the state average. In the 2010-11 school year (the last year for which statistics are available), East Penn’s spending per student was 275th of 500 school districts, 6.9% below the state average.
Over the last five years, we have eliminated several positions, including three central office administrators, one high school assistant principal, and many teachers, deliberately increasing class sizes. We have renegotiated contracts with vendors, made capital improvements to reduce energy usage and costs, eliminated some extracurricular programs, such as middle school band camp, increased employee payments for health insurance premiums, reduced the number of items mailed home to families to reduce postage and copying costs, found advertising sponsors to pay for the district calendar, and much, much more.
Every time there is a resignation or retirement, we carefully consider whether the position should be eliminated, filled in kind, or filled with a lower cost option. We will continue to implement energy efficiency projects, negotiate firmly with our vendors and unions, and look to reduce costs and waste wherever possible.

5) Since you will be involved with the next round of contract negotiations what would you like to see happen?

It would put the district at a disadvantage to telegraph our intentions and objectives in advance of negotiations. We will negotiate firmly and in good faith with each of our unions as their contract comes up for renewal, but it would be foolish to discuss desired outcomes.

6) Are you familiar with Common Core and is East Penn using this data collection system? What aspects do you like/dislike? (ed. note http://www.pdesas.org/standard/commoncore)

The Common Core is a set of standards that form the foundation of a curriculum. It includes learning objectives at each grade level in each subject area. Here is one example from the Grade 4 Mathematics standards:
Gain familiarity with factors and multiples.
CCSS.Math.Content.4.OA.B.4 Find all factor pairs for a whole number in the range 1–100. Recognize that a whole number is a multiple of each of its factors. Determine whether a given whole number in the range 1–100 is a multiple of a given one-digit number. Determine whether a given whole number in the range 1–100 is prime or composite.
Pennsylvania has adopted the Common Core Standards, so East Penn is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to integrate those standards into its curriculum. As a result, we have teams of teachers and administrators redesigning our curriculum now.
In my opinion, the Common Core has not been sufficiently tested to determine its effectiveness in instructing students or achieving the desired learning outcomes. It may well be the right approach, or it may be misguided. Until we have more data from actual students, we will not be able to answer that question.


 Garrett Rhoads
 1) What is your stance on support for charter, private and parochial schools and how they might interact with the current public schools?

I am a firm believer in school choice of all kinds. There needs to be a clear distinction made between private/parochial schools and charter schools. The former does not rely on public tax dollars to operate. Charter schools do. As such, if charter schools are going to receive taxpayer dollars then they need to be help to the same educational standards as public schools. Taxpayers must also realize that with addition of brick & mortar charter schools comes added cost. The state does not fully reimburse school districts for the cost of funding of charter schools. Finally, we need to pressure our state legislators to re-visit the formulas used to fund cyber charter schools. They are significantly less expensive to operate than physical schools and PA taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund overly profitable “public/private” partnerships.

2) Last Fall a parent expressed concern about the use of The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test and Prep as part of the curriculum. How would you have addressed this issue at the time and what, if any, changes would you make in the future?

With tens of thousands of books available to choose from in the marketplace today, I think choosing to promote books on recommended reading lists with highly questionable content to young teens is an exercise in extremely poor judgment.
As firm believer in 1st amendment rights, I would never call for an outright ban on any book. This case was unique in that we are weighing a constitutional right against the responsibility of following state law as it pertains to the protection of minors under the age of 18.
Were the decision left up to me, I would have kept the books in question in the High School Library and allowed anyone over the age of legal consent (16 in PA) to check them out. Additionally, I would allow younger students to check out the book with the written consent of their parent or guardian.
I believe that we can reduce further incidents and improve the quality of our educational system if we allow for a Parent/Teacher Council that reviewed curriculum material together. This would allow for greater input from parents, thus reducing the potential for further embarrassment. The current system involves only the respective English departments in the schools and does not allow for the parents to be included in the decision making process.

3) How do you perceive East Penn can accommodate anticipated population growth, especially in Lower Macungie, without overburdening the tax payers in the rest of the School District?

Growth and development within the school district is not something a school board director has any power to control or legislate. I think East Penn can do a substantially better job of actively communicating with the other local governments within its districts. I have been to some township and borough meetings lately and I
can tell you that our locally elected officials are frustrated with the utter lack of communication and unwillingness to share information with local municipalities. In one instance, I was told that I was the first candidate or school board director to attend one of their council meetings… ever. We need school board members who will go the extra mile and get involved in local government in their communities so they can know what’s going on and share information. We could ask township commissioners to consider the added cost to the schools when considering impact fees for starters.

4) If elected, how to you propose to reduce or control spending in the District?

As a business owner, I know that the costs of goods and services consumed are a vital part of operating any enterprise. In this case, we are running a school district. Keeping in mind that we cannot reduce the quality of the education we are giving our students, we need to make sure that the taxpayer dollars being spent are allocated to maximize the investment in our children’s education and not on extraneous programs designed to “increase awareness” and “add status” to the school district.
Products and services should be publicly bid out on an annual basis at a minimum. Complacency in procurement can lead to unnecessary expenses and increased costs. Educational services, supplies, insurance, and utility costs must constantly be scrutinized and actively shopped for the best price. In today’s on-line world, this is a relatively simple matter.

5) Since you will be involved with the next round of contract negotiations what would you like to see happen?

Public service sector unions need to understand that the taxpayer is not an unlimited resource from which to draw. The last five years have seen our economy drop, the average household income drop by $4,000 per year, real inflation has gone up significantly, and we are all forced to reduce our standard of living to cope with the mess. In the meantime, our current school board continued on with “business as usual”. Our salary, wage, and benefit costs have continued to climb far outpacing the economy and inflation.
I think we need a school board which will actually negotiate on behalf of the taxpayer to allow for realistic changes in teacher contracts. We do not need yet another board which will simply “rubber stamp” whatever is presented to them by the Superintendent. We cannot continue with business as usual.

6) Are you familiar with Common Core and is East Penn using this data collection system? What aspects do you like/dislike? (ed. note http://www.pdesas.org/standard/commoncore)

I think that much like “No Child Left Behind”, Common Core was created and promoted with good intentions. As far as I can tell, the unintended consequences of its implementation will be catastrophic to our educational system and financially unsustainable for future generations.
One needs only to look at our neighbors in the ASD. They implemented this scheme using grant money (as thought grant money isn’t still made up of tax dollars).
This grant money paid for the extra staff hired for the implementation of Common Core for two years. After the first two years, the cost of operating the program was shifted over to the district which had to maintain the added staff. The staff in question was all given “administrative positions” at a massive cost of teacher jobs. The ASD was forced into further teacher layoffs and reductions. School teachers are now teaching their own music, art, and gym programs because they don’t have money for music, art, and gym teachers.
The stated goal of Common Core is to “decrease the education gap amongst students within standardized testing”. We presume this means that we want to boost the scores of the lower students to get closer to the higher students. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell from my research, the actual result will be even more focus on lower performing students to the detriment of higher performing students through the continued lowering of standards and the dumbing down of curriculum. The end result will be negative for education across the board. If you thought PSSAs were a burden, just wait…
This thinly veiled attempt to nationalize our educational system represents a threat to our personal privacy, a threat to our ability to stay involved in our children’s education, a threat to our right to control our own local curriculum, a threat to teachers’ ability to maximize lesson plans and perform their jobs well, and most importantly a threat to our educational system and the futures of our children.
Any financial carrots offered to implement this program will come with a very large and bitter poison pill. In my opinion, this farce must be stopped at all costs.

Dr. Ziad W. Munson

 1. What is your stance on support for charter, private and parochial schools and how they might interact with the current public schools?

There are important differences between “brick and mortar” schools in these categories and so-called “cyber” schools. Pennsylvania must reform its charter school law so that cyber schools managed by for-profit companies operating outside the state, are no longer able to siphon public money away from local taxpayers in the school district. The formula for giving tax money to all charter schools needs to more accurately reflect the actual expense of educating the students they enroll. And we need charter school reform that returns more authority to local communities over charter schools funded with local tax dollars.

2. Last fall a parent expressed concern about the use of The Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test and Prep as part of the curriculum. How would you have addressed this issue at the time and what, if any, changes would you make in the future?

I am a strong proponent of the First Amendment and am committed to the principle that our children learn best when exposed to many points of view, including those with which we may disagree. I am generally opposed to efforts to censor, ban, or reduce the availability of books in libraries. As a parent myself, I believe it is a parent’s responsibility to screen the materials their children read, not that of librarians or district bureaucrats.
That being said, our district has an established policy in place for handling parental concerns about library material. I would refer parents to that policy. It is the role of the school board to set such a policy and ensure it is carried out effectively. I do not believe it is the role of the school board to individually judge each and every item in school libraries.

3. How do you perceive East Penn can accommodate anticipated population growth, especially in Lower Macungie, without overburdening the tax payers in the rest of the school district?

East Penn taxpayers suffer from a lack of credible and meaningful regional planning in our community. The district needs to advocate for such planning, and work closely with planning officials to ensure that new growth does not come at the expense of existing residents. In particular, we must insist on smart growth policies that insure a new tax base that meets or exceeds the total, long-term public costs of new growth. These costs include not only school costs, but also costs of fire coverage, police protection, and needed improvements to transportation and recreation infrastructure.

4. If elected, how do you propose to reduce or control spending in the district?

I would first propose to reduce spending by eliminating waste and inefficiency, both of which always exist in any large bureaucracy. But let’s be honest: addressing such problems is important but will result in only small savings relative to the size of the entire budget.
To tackle bigger problems, I would use three basic principles in controlling spending. First, I would take a long-term approach to budgeting. Cutting $1,000 to fix a leaky roof from the budget today is short-sighted if it means we will have to pay $100,000 to repair the damage caused by the leak in a few years. Second, any cost-cutting proposals need to be specific. Calling for budget cuts in general makes good political theater, but it takes both significant knowledge and real leadership to propose the concrete programs, personnel, or facilities that should be cut. And third, I would take a balanced approach to spending issues that weighs the needs of our community for excellent schools with the needs for fiscal responsibility in using our limited resources.

5. Since you will be involved with the next round of contract negotiations, what would you like to see happen?

Everyone in our community benefits from contract negotiations that build on the goodwill that currently exists within the district. Teachers are professionals, and I would hope to see a contract that reflects this fact. Professionalism requires a contract that provides flexibility to innovate and meet the demands of a changed economy. And professionalism is reflected in a contract that allows for employees to benefit during good economic times, but calls for shared sacrifice in more difficult ones.

6. Are you familiar with Common Core and is East Penn using this data collection system? What aspects do you like/dislike?

I have heard of Common Core standards, but do yet know enough about them to form an educated opinion about the specifics. I can say, however, that I am unequivocally opposed to standardized testing as the sole basis for judging either student learning or teaching effectiveness. Although standardized tests sound reasonable in theory, in practice they have reduced the overall quality of education in our schools by narrowing the range of subjects taught in school, replacing critical thinking with rote memorization, wasting increasing amounts of time teaching the test itself, and spreading the erroneous idea that all important learning can be reduced to a numeric score.