Sen. Casey addresses Wal-mart impacts on local communities

Sen. Casey – Wal Marts and other box stores strain local resources. 

When you develop a property you are not entitled to unlimited or unreasonable usage (waste) of public municipal resources paid for by tax dollars.

Our Lower Mac Wal-Mart, has for years been a considerable strain on police resources. This is well documented locally. (2013 Morning Call) Wal-Mart seems to rely on police to provide basic security at considerable cost to taxpayers. While every resident and business is entitled to call police for help or to report a crime it’s obvious Wal-Mart exploits this. 

Not only do we face financial impact, but safety as well. When police are spending excessive time at one business they are taken away from other duties.

Similar issue, in 2013 we instituted a nuisance ordinance for excessive fire alarms. We did this after our Fire Dept. reported ] 30% of emergency calls from commercial users were false alarms. Same principle. While every business is entitled to fire protection, there came a point where excessive calls constituted a public nuisance. After enacting the ordinance along with corresponding fines we immediately saw a drop in false alarms. I believe if Wal-Mart had to pay for excessive call volume for totally preventable retail crimes we would see the retail giant suddenly become much more proactive with prevention.

Here is what Sen. Casey had to say in a letter penned to Wal-Mart President Doug Mcmillon

“I write to request that Wal-Mart conduct a review of its internal security protocol to ensure adequate security staffing and procedures at stores in Pennsylvania and around the country,” Casey wrote. “Of course, police protect and serve every member of our communities, but the significant volume of calls from Wal-Mart stores raises serious questions about whether the company’s current security infrastructure effectively deters crime without overburdening local police departments, many of which already operate on stretched budgets.”


According to the article, a Wal-Mart representative said the retailer plans to meet with Lehigh Valley elected officials and police in coming weeks to discuss security measures. I have asked to be kept informed and to be a part of this meeting if possible. I made a phone call to Sen. Casey’s office this AM. 

 

 

 

Conservatives – We need to avoid hypocrisy.

Why on earth is the Texas legislature considering a bill to “hobble” a private companies effort to build a critical high speed rail connection in Texas? Kind of mind boggling. Anti competition, anti market.. Especially considering the private company has vowed not to take a dime of public money. And by building this rail line the company helps Texas avoid dumping countless millions into massively subsidized highway improvements.

Here is the issue: A private company wants to finance a bullet train to carry passengers between Houston and Dallas in less than 90 minutes. The company undertaking the project has said it hopes to have the train running by 2021 and has vowed to not take any public subsidies. Texas Senate Bill targeting bullet train project advances.


As usual Strongtowns nails it:

“Texas is known for its commitment to limited government, individual responsibility and personal liberty. At least it likes to think of itself that way. When it comes to transportation — specifically automobile transportation — Texas is one of the most socialist states in the country, taxing and spending at amazing rates with an additional predilection towards borrowing enormous sums of money to build even more government-backed infrastructure.

I thought us Republicans were all about competition and the free market? I know that I believe in those things? So what’s the issue? Turns out to be eminent domain. Ok, I get that.

But here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. I wonder if the Texas legislature has the same mentality with the Keystone pipeline (also for profit venture) and eminent domain? Taking the eminent domain issues off the table, I have mixed feelings on the pipeline project. What I do know is I can’t stand hypocrisy. And that’s exactly what I’m smelling out of the Texas legislature.


Currently, hundreds of private firms have eminent domain authority in Texas, including pipeline companies, utility companies and telecommunication firms. More than a dozen private railroad companies also have that authority, according to an unofficial list maintained by the state comptroller.

What about if the proposal was a new massively taxpayer subsidized highway that required eiminent or STROAD widening project that involved a taking? Legislators would probably fall over themselves to support it. Can we please avoid cherry picking and applying our conservative principles evenly? We aren’t in the business of picking winners (taxpayer subsidized highway and air lobby) and losers (in this case privately funded rail)

Hypocrisy. Can’t stand it.. Throw in the immensely powerful and massively taxpayer subsidized highway lobby. (Airports also). Very smelly.

This is exactly what we need in the US. Private companies can make passenger rail profitable. The key? SPEED.

Great Ted Cruz quote from CPAC

A quote I have referred to often on this blog over the last 2 years is: “A state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” – Brandeis

This notion is something I strongly believe in. Change should occur from the bottom up. This is the primary reason I oppose Obamacare.

Over at disgruntled republican Rod Williams writes about the conversation about legalizing pot at this years CPAC convention. CPAC, is the Conservative Political Action Committee, the largest gathering of conservatives in the nation.

I was happy to read this quote from Ted Cruz:

“I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the laboratories of democracy’. If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.”

I agree with this federalist approach 100%. Nice to see Sen. Cruz on board. Last year at this time he wasnt. I have the same general federalist 10th amendment opinion of other issues such as minimum wage and healthcare. All examples of issues individual states should be free to decide without federal government mandates.

Mitt Romney – Show the Interview free globally.

I rarely write about non-local issues. But wanted to today. Very disappointed five major theater chains decided to pull “The Interview”. While I respect their right to make a business decision in my opinion it was the wrong decision. And by doing so they told the world that you can bully the United States.

Freedom of speech and expression are some of the core principles our country is based on. This is a direct foreign attack on that freedom. Terrorism is based on fear. Without fear it doesn’t work. When we succumb to it our enemies win.

I understand America is under attack almost daily from cyber-terrorists. But to my knowledge a direct threat of violence from a foreign nation is unchartered waters. A foreign dictator directly threatened American citizens and in doing so was able to bully a private company into censorship. Scary.

So businesses made a business decision. Fine. Their right to do so. And Sony gets creamed because of it. Remember, it wasn’t their decision to pull the movie. It was the distributors who might not ever agree to screen the film. In light of that Mitt Romney offered a great alternative.

Right on Mitt!

Right on Mitt! Right on.

 

 

 

Seattle and Mininum wage

“A state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” – Brandeis 

The quote above very succinctly sums up a fundamental notion why I am right of center politically. I believe there is no more important conviction then that of our bottom up system of gov’t paired with a system of checks and balances on the power of the federal gov’t.

This is related to why I support Seattle’s right raise the local min wage even though I disagree with the policy and think the impacts will be adverse.

Why?  As a nation of state and of local Govt we are the great laboratory of democracy. The federal gov’t should not overstep it’s bounds and dictate what a local minimum wage should be set at. Seattle has the right to raise it’s
 min wage if they choose. Even though I personally believe in the end it will hurt their economy that jobs will be lost and it will hurt small business. Seattle has the right to self govern. 

The fact remains, I can’t say that with certainty that Seattle’s efforts will end in failure. We can only model, predict and forecast the affects on the local economy. There is always a chance I and others who draw the same conclusions are wrong.  If the increase does indeed work out in Seattle then other cities/places should be able to freely choose to adopt or not to adopt. If enough places in Washington have success then eventually the state would consider. That incremental change would be a symptom of success. Success breeds success. Failure stops an idea in it’s tracks.

A philosophy where policy is experimented on at the state and local level first, before it is on the national level is the basis for my politics. I believe in the 10th amendment. Federal gov’t responsibilities are outlined by the constitution. This allows for a diverse patchwork of lower government policies and practices. This is the great laboratory of democracy that is the United States. It’s what makes us special. Unfortunately, the tenth amendment has been eroded over time.

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Market solutions to land use issues – Highway Congestion

I believe in market-based, fiscally conservative solutions to land use and transportation challenges faced by the nation.

These issues are highlighted locally. The proposal to reconstruct and widen Route 22 from four to six lanes between 15th & Airport Rd. will cost about $175 million dollars. Huge amount of money. We’re all paying for it in the form of the gas tax passed by the PA legislature.

Most acknowledge Rt. 22 has reached critical mass (in terms of convenience). The issue is how we address it. So on the horizon is a widening project with no accountability for results with a high likelihood that in 10 years the 6 shiny new lanes will again be gridlocked. It’s happens enough with widening projects all around the nation. Agency throws money at a highway but it rarely  fixes the underlying issues. In enough cases to raise alarm bells the new lanes simply fill up. So why do we repeat the same mistakes?

Big picture the vicious circle is astronomically beyond our ability to pay for. The system is unsustainable. This is evidenced by the crisis level of infrastructure issues in the United States. Here in PA most believe the gas tax increase won’t fix the underlying issues. It’s another bandaid.

So what’s an alternative? Is there a market based-conservative approach? I believe there is and a model is out there.

In Virginia through a public/private partnership a private company helped fund the installation of express lanes on I-495. The company Transurban financed, designed and built the project with review and oversight from VDOT. The company operates and maintains the Express Lanes.

Widening projects happen because people complain about congestion. Since highways are a public good and should be available to everyone it’s important we don’t create barriers. A dedicated express lane doesn’t. It just creates a market for convenience. Those who want to pay for convenience pay for it. Those that don’t, aren’t forced to.

Here Jim Bacon talks about the 495 express lane project in Virginia. The program has so far seen lower then expected revenue.  Jim attributes it to reduced traffic overall and the recession. Personally I’m ok with that, since the alternative would have been traditional funding mechanisms. (aka taxpayers). Based on what I’ve read this will eventually be a profitable venture for Transurban. Alot of the issues were timing.  And again, if it never does become profitable then the risk was all on them not taxpayers. That’s what the market is all about.

The express-lanes concept is appealing for several reasons. First, the private sector raised most of the money to pay for the expansion of Interstate 495 capacity — money the state did not have — and assumed the financial risk should traffic and revenues prove disappointing. – Bacons Rebellion 

 

 

 

Syria

 

I keep saying I’m going to devote a couple hours to ingesting everything I can about Syria. I think I’m pretty informed about alot of issues local and national. But with Syria I feel like I’m flying blind. Between work, life and local issues I haven’t devoted nearly enough time to have a strong informed position.

My gut tells me do not intervene. But I want more information before I write my Congressman with thoughts. This is an issue everyone with an opinion should weigh in on. Huge decision with consequences.

I know one thing. That is I’m pleased Congress is being given a chance to weigh in. I’d be fiercely against any unilateral authorization of military force by POTUS intervening in any situation where the direct security of the United States isn’t immediately threatened.

As for our Congressman, Charlie Dent said nothing about Syria (that I heard though I got to event a little late) at the Kutztown town hall. He did (or his staff..) started a thread solely devoted to Syria on his FB page. (sidenote I always thought it was great that Dent’s social media is very active, I applaud any politician for that) 

This morning I read local blogger Chris Casey’s piece. The aphorism he mentions at the end and in the title about the ‘road to hell being paved with good intentions’ has been stuck in my crawl all day. Can’t shake it.

Came across this chart below on CNN this morning. It’s a “How they will vote piece” Here is the information presented on PA delegation. In BOLD are local congressman including 15th district and surrounding.

Do you have strong thoughts on Syria pro-intervention or against? Let’s talk about it in the comments. I’m interested to hear different viewpoints. 

Pennsylvania 1 Brady, Robert D Undecided
Pennsylvania 2 Fattah, Chaka D Unknown
Pennsylvania 3 Kelly, Mike R Undecided Said he was happy that Congress was able to vote on Syrian intervention, in an August 31 statement, but did not indicate how he would vote.
Pennsylvania 4 Perry, Scott R Undecided Perry chided the Obama administration in a local interview, but did no outright say he would not support the proposed intervention.
Pennsylvania 5 Thompson, Glenn W. R Unknown
Pennsylvania 6 Gerlach, Jim R No August 28 statement: “I believe the President’s use of military force in that country is not appropriate.”
Pennsylvania 7 Meehan, Pat R Unknown
Pennsylvania 8 Fitzpatrick, Michael G. R Undecided In an interview with CNN, he said “The resolution is overly broad.”
Pennsylvania 9 Shuster, Bill R Unknown
Pennsylvania 10 Marino, Tom R No I am absolutely opposed to any intervention in Syria at this time, she said in an August 27 statement.
Pennsylvania 11 Barletta, Lou R Undecided At an August 29 town hall, Barletta discussed Syria but didn’t indicate how he would vote.
Pennsylvania 12 Rothfus, Keith R Undecided Said he was happy Congress was able to vote on Syrian intervention in an August 31 statement, but didn’t indicate how he would vote.
Pennsylvania 13 Schwartz, Allyson Y. D Undecided Posted a statement on Facebook about Syria, but did not indicate how she would vote.
Pennsylvania 14 Doyle, Mike D Undecided In an August 31 interview with a local newspaper: “The president should have the chance to make the case to Congress as well as the American people.”
Pennsylvania 15 Dent, Charles W. R Undecided In a skeptical statement to a local newspaper, he said “there are no good policy options for the United States in Syria.”
Pennsylvania 16 Pitts, Joseph R. R Undecided Pitts is one of many congressmen who penned a letter to Obama and asked for congressional approval.
Pennsylvania 17 Cartwright, Matthew D Unknown
Pennsylvania 18 Murphy, Tim R Unknown

PA lawmakers should make median personal income of district they serve

 

Erik Boehm from PA independent reports the yearly salary for lawmakers in PA. Our legislators make 83,800 a year, the second highest in the nation.

Got me thinking. Here is my riff on how I believe lawmakers should be compensated. First there is the philosophical question of should state lawmakers be paid at all. Are they full time “professionals” or should they be unpaid “volunteers”? In some states such as New Hampshire State Reps and Senators are volunteers and do not get paid. In Pennsylvania we have a professional legislature that receives the second highest yearly salary in the nation only behind California.

I believe that yes, lawmakers should be compensated. I do have an issue with the amount we pay here in PA compared to other states.

In my perfect world compensation would be based on the median personal income for the district represented. For example if median household income in your district is about 45,000 then you make 45,000.

And yes, in my proposal lawmakers could get a raise. How? Do a good job and bring up the average median household income in your district. Conversely… do a poor job and your salary gets cut.

I do believe in a full time legislature. States with unpaid tend to have weaker legislative branches compared to the executive. I believe in a system of strong checks and balances. To ensure one, we need a compensated full time legislative body.

I think a scale according to median district household income is a way to compensate that makes sense. Yes, many who run for office would be making sacrifices. Many come from very good private sector careers and take pay cuts to serve. I’m OK with that. Potential lawmakers should be willing to sacrifice if they honestly care deeply about serving/running. And maybe this would weed out those who are in it for the wrong reasons.

What do you think about this idea? 

In contrast here are the bottom 10.

bottom 10 states in legislator salary

Bottom 10 states

 

 

 

Who benefits from job poaching?

Question: If locality ‘A’ steals a business from locality ‘B’ through tax breaks and subsidies, in general, is the American economy better off?

Bringin it home:

Ocean Spray in Fogelsville – 

“The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, with the help of a $4.5 million incentive package from the state, lured the juice maker away from its existing plant in Bordentown, New Jersey to Upper Macungie.” – Patch May 2012

Employment figures – 165 employees in the new modern facility vs. 250 at the old Bordentown NJ plant. Bordentown is 70 miles away across the Jersey border. Ok so the greater region and the American economy lost 90 jobs. But wait thats 165 new jobs for Valley residents. Eh not so fast…

“During the transition from the New Jersey to Upper Macungie, Ocean Spray will offer its Bordentown City employees relocation packages.”

So back to the fundamental question. Are we better off? Well PA taxpayers have subsidized another greenfield project. Not to mention the infrastructure to support it. The area gets more traffic, more tractor trailers and more future liability in terms of police, roads, water, sewer ect. The American economy as a whole loses 90 jobs.

So who are the winners? Ocean Spray wins. And I’m happy for that. Played the system. Pitted two communities against each other to see who can dangle the biggest fruit. They come out leaner and meaner as a company. Certainly a private companies right to do so. And yes, thats great. So who else? The politicians (Gov. Corbett and local officials) get a nice feather in their cap. And of course the Jaindl Land Company churns up another 44 acres of subsidized farmfield for a hefty profit. Again, it’s right working within the rules of the system.

My problem is the system. What we need right now. What needs to be a fundamental question on the national stage in this presidential election. How do we create new jobs. Not just encourage poaching? How do we make a sustainable dent in the unemployment rate thats been stagnant for a half decade. Not just prop up a broken system where jobs are poached from one community to another with temporary tax breaks and subsidies? Where are the vehicles to create new jobs? Whose talking about and addressing this problem?

That being said, I ask again: If locality ‘A’ steals a business from locality ‘B’ through tax breaks and subsidies is the American economy as a whole better off?

Sidenote: Remember International Battery? Another business lured by ured to Upper Macungie by $4 million in tax incentives. They closed in March. Failing to make a profit.

George Washington’s words of wisdom in seemingly polarized times

As George Washington neared his resignation, he wrote a letter to the nation. In it he warns of the danger of polarized political parties. Approaching what could be the nastiest campaign in history, here is an excerpt from the address that is worthwhile to reflect on in today’s seemingly ever polarized world.

They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.

I find Washington’s words prophetic in describing both of our political parties today during heart of campaign season. Both attempt to appeal to the fringes as their preferred mechanism in attempting to maintain power by fostering fear. Entities or people with power will attempt to keep that power. This is simply a defining quality of human nature. It’s the fundamental reason why communism doesn’t work. It’s also coincidentally why at it’s core fascism becomes appalling and doesn’t work. George Washington, our first and greatest President was one of the few people who attained power to willingly relinquish it. He is the exception, not the rule.

While the fringes have gotten louder and the venom more rancorous with partisan attempts to maintain power, I still do believe today that the vast majority of Americans are moderate in nature. Every four years the election cycle presents megaphones to the fringe and wings of both parties. They pander to perpetuate a climate of fear. Make no mistake there is no doubt we have problems in our nation. But I believe no single one size fits all ideology can fix the worlds issues despite how much talking heads tell you it can. Only by working together will we solve the daunting issues we face.

“Bipartisanship does not involve the surrender of free debate in determining our position. On the contrary, cooperation and free debate are indispensable to ultimate unity,” said Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg in the 1950’s.

The rancor today is enhanced to new heights by the 24/7 news cycle, internet “meme’s”, the blogosphere and 140 character tweets. Nonetheless I believe the moderate voice still represents the majority. This remains critically important despite the fact that each cycle the vitriol is becoming more and more repugnant. As vial as our two party system can become at times, it’s important that neither party fails. A single demagoguing party (flip a coin, either one) is the much scarier and dangerous proposition in my opinion.

“When nothing is owed or deserved or expected your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected” – The Avett brothers head full of doubt, head full of promise