Between the debate last night and around 11 a.m. this morning the Pennsylvania Democratic Party's website asked people to vote for their presidential preference. The results are in and (drum roll please) Chris Dodd came in first, followed by John Edwards.
I think Dodd's press person is from, or used to live in, Pennsylvania. Could be wrong on this, file it as an unsubstantiated rumor. Perhaps that was a factor?
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Between the debate last night and around 11 a.m. this morning the Pennsylvania Democratic Party's website asked people to vote for their presidential preference. The results are in and (drum roll please) Chris Dodd came in first, followed by John Edwards.
PCN Election 07
Judge Debra Todd
Democratic candidate for Supreme Court
Member of the Pennsylvania Superior Court
This evening I watched a tape of Judge Todd's 30 minute Q&A on PCN. These are my rough notes from that program. Apologies in advance for any errors or misinterpretations.
Q: Why get into law
DT: always loved the law, discovered it at age 12. Father a steelworker. None of my family had had the opportunity to go to college. Had never known a lawyer. At age 12 an attorney in my neighborhood asked me if I would like a job as a file clerk for 50 cents an hour for the summer. Attorney encouraged me to be a lawyer. He told me women could be lawyers. Worked for that lawyer every summer full-time from ages 12-18, part-time during school year.
Q: law school?
DT: went to Pittsburgh, Chattam College, Univ of Pittsburgh, member of law review
Q: first job?
DT: attorney at US Steel. Parents excited since dad a steelworker. There for 6 years as an in-house litigator, tried cases in state and federal court. Went into private practice for 12 years. Started with commercial litigation, representing businesses in commercial pursuits. Expanded, did employment law and environmental law and represent individuals in wrongful death and product liability. Wide range of cases
Q: memorable cases?
DT: litigation in civil court, did pro bono in family court as advocate for children. Represented some women whose husbands were killed in a roof collapse. You can never make things right but try to get families relief
Q: when did you want to be a judge?
DT: always had an eye on the judiciary, knew would have to work hard and establish self as an attorney. Thought being a judge would be a wonderful and meaningful career. Elected to superior court in 1999. Opportunities are where you find them or make them. Knew there were vacancies on superior court. Wanted to pursue that, traveled around state, all 67 counties, made a lot of friends. Very fortunate to be elected.
Q: involved politically before that?
DT: Grew up in a family active in volunteerism and local politics. As a small child worked on Humphrey campaign. Family focused on issues and political activism
Q: why a Democrat?
DT: Grew up in a union family, usually allied with Democrats. Values taught when growing up are values not exclusive to Democrats but appeal to everyone. Values we all hold and seek to elect individuals to court and high office in government who have those values. We want those people to have those values, integrity, inclusiveness. Not just Democratic values but values we want in anyone as a judge. I have a broad range of experience, education,
Q: what makes a good judge?
DT: So many qualities – integrity, hard working, honest, well-education, unbiased, impartial. Education – all of the candidates have gone to law school, I’m the only candidate for supreme court that went beyond that and received post doctoral degree and did that while sitting on the court as an appellate judge. Competitive program, only accept 30 students, usually appellate judges. Encouraged to apply by president judge of superior court, wonderful mentor, and by current president judge. Both of those individuals worked hard and attended the program. Requires a lot of work and effort, spend two summers at UVA in Charlottesville, moved children there, husband moved back and forth. Still kept up with docket on superior court. Did a lot of research and published an article in Penn State Law Review on adult offenders of children. Every day see those cases in the superior court. Going through LLM program gave me the opportunity to really delve into the issue. Being a graduate of that program demonstrates a [missing word] of the judiciary. Takes judging business very seriously. [blogger's note: A synopsis of her article appeared on this blog in July.]
Q: what kind of cases on superior court?
DT: intermediate appellate court, cases from court of common pleas, when people dissatisfied with verdict can take case to superior court. Heard cases on every conceivable kind of law, minor criminal offense appeals, to most serious cases, murder, burglary, rape, with exception of death penalty (which go to Supreme Court), also have business related cases, also family related cases, child custody, termination of parental rights. I have gained tremendous experience as appellate judge.
Q: case load
DT: about 8000 appeals. 15 elected judges and 5 or 6 senior judges assist with case load. Each judge on the superior court sits on cases in groups of 3 or panels of 9 on certain cases [missed details] which may be seen on PCN. I think that is very educational for people. Shows how hard we work at this system of justice.
Q: on the superior court for almost 8 years, why move up?
DT: worked very hard on superior court, over 1600 opinions, available on superior court website. Gained tremendous experience and insight, with judicial work, education, sentencing and constitutional law. Two seats on supreme court vacant and being filled in election. Very important for voters to come out and evaluate candidates to see which would best serve.
Q: what difference between where you sit now and supreme court
DT: Supreme Court is court of last resort, hear appeals from superior court, commonwealth court and some others such as death penalty. Superior court has to take cases, the supreme court hears only the cases it selects, about 100 or 150 cases a year. Picks the ones the judges feels are the most important. Court renders opinions on what will be interpretation of particular law in Pennsylvania. In addition to writing opinions and administering system of justice in PA, so administration of justice the same across the state.
Q: what is campaigning like?
DT: it’s been great. I love meeting people. Tiring but love meeting people. Put a lot of miles on the car meeting people. All across the state the people of Pennsylvania very concerned about state of judiciary. Want justices with integrity, restore some faith that might have been lost in last year. If fortunate enough to be elected wants to speak out and show what judges do, volunteer in community, part of their churches.
Q: is that what you are hearing?
DT: many people concerned at what goes on in high level of government. Certainly had more activism in last few years because of that concern. Anything that the public can do to get to know the judges not only as a professional in the law but as a human being will reinforce to the public that we are working hard to restore faith in the justice system, level playing field
Q: bar association rating
DT: Honored to receive highest rating. People wonder how those come about. PA Bar Association behaves almost like the FBI in intensity of evaluating candidates, talk to people you have come into contact with, lawyers, judges, detailed questionnaire, speak to you and to your staff, you speak to entire commission about 25 people firing questions at you. In depth investigation, try very hard to rate candidates. Very positive thing to receive their highest recommendation.
Q: other recommendations
DT: endorsed by AFL-CIO and many other labor unions, by PSEA (sisters PSEA members), one sister just retired after 38 years as a public school teacher. Gratified to have support of the teachers. Many groups in state stepped forward to endorse my candidacy. Philadelphia Inquirer and Allentown Morning Call endorsed.
Q: should judges be elected or selected
DT: in favor of an elected system. Elections, although exhausting and expensive, it is at the very least a public process in the open air. Voters of PA get to see the candidates. People don’t want that right taken away and decisions made in back room by people they see as politicians. With the internet and candidate websites and groups that evaluate judges lets people know who is running and what they stand for.
Q: why vote for you
DT: First, worked very hard, worked through college and law school, My sisters and I are the first in family to have opportunity to go to college. Established a solid reputation as a trial attorney. And as a fair and impartial judge, believe I have a contribution to make on the supreme court. Endorsed and supported by groups all over the state. Whether D or R what matters is quality of judiciary. Please look at qualification, background, and experience, I believe I am a candidate worthy of your vote. Lastly, if a woman not elected this November there will be no women on the court. There should be a woman’s voice at the table. I am a mother and a wife, having that perspective will only enhance the supreme court.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
From the inbox, some fun and games on the newly update Pennsylvania Democratic Party's website, for those who watched the debate this evening:
* We’re hosting an online poll letting people determine the winner of tonight’s debate. The poll starts at 10:30 p.m., half an hour before the debate ends. We’ll leave it open until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, then post the results on the site tomorrow afternoon. Obviously it won’t be in any way binding, but we think it will serve as an informal indicator of which candidate has the most active support in Pennsylvania.
* Leading up to the poll, we’ve invited Democrats from all over Pennsylvania to take part in an open conversation on the site’s message board. No sign-in or username required. Anyone can start a thread or comment on an existing one.
PCN Election 07
Judge Maureen Lally-Green
Republican for Supreme Court
Q: Why do you want to be a Supreme Court judge
ML-G: wants to use experiences and talents to better serve the public, diverse experience, addressing some of the issues that the court, at this moment in time, is supposed to address. Went to law school over 30 years ago, Duquesne, on law review, for 9 year in private practice, went into public service at Commodity Futures Trading Commission, then Westinghouse. In 1983 married and had 2 children, wanted a third. Part time work / flex time not available. Gave notice at work. Dean at Duquesne suggested I teach part-time, from 1982-1998, went full time in 1987, full professor of law in 1992. also a part time consultant to SC, worked on cases, drafting opinions for review, particularly in criminal law. In 1998 tapped to be on superior court, ran in 1999 and won.
Q: what was first statewide race like
ML-G: Interesting, had not run before. Had served on local zoning board. Many wonderful people advised me.
Q: What do you get out of meeting people around PA
ML-G: Education about them and what concerns them and also what they want from me as a justice on the Supreme Court. We talk about the court, how it works, answers questions but also ask them what they want out of the court.
Q: Most commonly asked question
ML-G: how hard is your job? So much of that is because my job is paper and they don’t see that work. Superior Court is on PCN and people watch the proceedings, see the questions we ask and interplay between lawyers and judges. How large is your caseload and how do you do it. How behind are you? Every case looked at fairly and impartially. I read everything.
Q: What do people want from a judiciary?
ML-G: want judges to be fair and impartial. Want to be treated with respect and dignity.
Q: Any changes you would like to see in the court?
ML-G: appointed by Supreme Court to a few committees. Race, gender and ethnic fairness, involved in working within the system to ensure fairness. In early 2000’s chaired a committee for the Supreme Court on gender fairness. Ways to improve treatment of women. Then appointed to a statewide committee, including grievance committee. Assure that everyone who uses the court system has an opportunity to raise a concern. Would like to continue that work. Always had an interest in children. Currently serves on a board in the Pittsburg area on children. Access to seniors and disabled. How to make it easier for seniors to access the system.
Q: was law your first choice as a profession
ML-G: majored in mathematics and took courses to become secondary education teacher, did student teaching, encouraged to take LSAT’s, did well, then went to law school
Q: what sparked that interest
ML-G: met a woman who was an attorney in Pittsburgh DA’s office, who encouraged me to go to law school. Also my parents, dad said give it a try
Q: as a practicing attorney what was most interesting and memorable case
ML-G: anti-trust case involving Westinghouse, monopolies, price fixing, lots of documents. Working in Westinghouse’s major litigation dept, eventually asigned over to counter claims, 3 or 4 years
Q: election vs appointment for judges
ML-G: appointment process has diverse group that looks at credentials, researches past, makes recommendation, no need for fundraising or campaigning. With election, for one year you are campaigning. Significant limits because of canons of judicial conduct, still doing what other politicians do, but do get to meet people, the time the public takes to talk with me and share with me.
Q: judicial activism? Decisions by courts or legislature
ML-G: judicial activism is somewhat intertwined with judicial independence. A judge is elected to perform a defined duty under the Constitution, serve as the person who decides cases brought before a specific court, based on precedent, law, and argument before the court In our system we value predictability in the law, precedent. My job is not to add or subtract words. A discipline process, my personal views should not come in. Personal views may play out in legislative or executive. Been doing this for 10 years on Superior Court. PA Bar Association did look at all the candidates running for office. They commented on my cases being fair and impartial. Judicial activism is sometimes going beyond what I just defined as the process what a judge should take and perhaps going into what the legislature should do. Judicial independence is threaded through our constitution. Two meanings, the three branches of govt have checks and balances, the majesty of the American system. Ability of the judge to make the hard decision and the public to respect that hard decision.
Q: what sort of cases does the Supreme Court hear?
ML-g: last court a PA citizen can go to unless go to US Supreme Court. Can be final word. Some cases go from Common Pleas to PA Supreme Court, some go through appeals, most are selected by the court, cases that impact the system across the board,
Q: how many seats open
ML-G: 7 Supreme Court justices, 3 positions on ballot, one is a retention, Saylor, plus two open seats. Justice Cappy announced he will step down by end of year, so that seat will be on the ballot in 2 years. Citizens paying a lot more attention to govt. Supreme Court cases may affect people in family law issues, etc. Public interested in openness and transparency in judiciary.
Q: Why should people vote for you?
ML-G: Depth and breadth of experience. Served the court in so many different capacities. Ready to do the job. PA Bar rated me highly recommended, their highest rating, noting experience and reputation for fair and impartial decisions and even temperament. Contribute to the citizens and improving confidence of citizens in the judiciary. I have the qualifications. Since 1772 only elected one woman on PA Supreme Court. Would like to be the second. The voice of a mom and a woman at the table. Thank you for the opportunity.
Monday, October 29, 2007
While we may sing “It’s Great Being a Girl,” there are a few legal aspects of being female in Pennsylvania that are not so splendid.
Take occupation. Should you happen to find yourself in a particular occupation at least one Philadelphia judge has decided that you cannot file charges for a particular crime. A prostitute made arrangements with a guy for certain services in exchange for a certain amount. The guy showed up with 3 friends and a gun. A fifth man arrived later but declined to participate and helped the woman leave. The woman filed rape charges but the judge in the case, Teresa Carr Deni, instead held the defendant on “theft of services.” (Source: "Hooker raped and robbed -- by justice system," by Jill Porter, Daily News 10/12). I believe but am not certain that Judge Deni is up for retention this year. Just saying that any Philadelphia voters might want to look that ballot over carefully.
If an accountant had made an appointment to do someone’s taxes and the guy showed up with 5 friends and a gun and held the gun to the accountant’s head and insisted he do their taxes also (for no charge), that would be assault, don’t you think? If someone a shade tree mechanic (unlicensed) had made arrangements to change someone’s oil and the guy showed up with 5 friends and a gun and held the gun to the mechanic’s head and insisted that he change the other guys’ oil, too, that would be assault, yes? Would anyone think to use “theft of services” in these cases? I doubt it.
Once that slippery slope is crossed it quickly becomes “Well, I thought she was….” “She looked like ….” “She dressed like ….”
So what happens if the average woman is mistaken for someone who cannot file charges for a particular crime? Well, if you find yourself in the emergency rooms of certain hospitals don’t expect to be given the option of emergency contraception. Pennsylvania is still deciding whether hospitals are required to provide that service to women. No one is forcing the woman to take the medication, only to offer her the choice. (Source: "Bill: Hospitals must offer Plan B in rapes," by Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer 10/03). Note: If you want to follow the debate on this bill, HB 288, good luck to you. The bill history says it was last discussed on Oct 3rd and to see the House Journal for remarks. However, the most recent issue of the House Journal available at this time is for June.
If a woman finds herself in a situation where she needs to try to get child support, let’s hope she has some cash around the house. There is sometimes a fee for filing child support papers. It varies by county and there is the option of declaring oneself a pauper if paying the filing fee is a hardship. For example, in Franklin County the fees are:
The Franklin County Domestic Relations Section is responsible for the administration of child / spouse support Enforcement Program which consists of: Case Initiation, Paternity Determination, Location of Absent Parents, Establishment and Modification of Support Orders, and Enforcement of Financial and Non-Financial Orders.
Fees include: $45.00 Filing Fee, $186.00 Genetic test Fee, $26.00 Annual Service Fee.
In other counties the fees are much less.
These examples do not necessarily flow together well. I’ve just noticed all of them in the news lately and thought I would tack them all up on the bulletin board together.
The October 29th issues of Harpers has an interesting article on the business of politics, "Selling toothpaste and candidates," by Ken Silverstein. He has two paragraphs on the "Olivia" ad for Michael Nutter's primary campaign:
Inside the ballroom, a parade of consultants regaled the audience with strategic advice and war stories. “We always say it’s not like selling toothpaste, but in a multi-candidate field it is like selling toothpaste,” Doc Sweitzer, a Democratic media strategist, said during one panel. “The voters are walking down the aisles to see which product cleans the teeth better and which one gives you better breath.”
A string of Sweitzer’s greatest advertising hits was projected upon a screen. One undisputed masterpiece was for underdog Michael Nutter’s winning mayoral campaign in Philadelphia. “My dad is the only candidate with a kid in public school so I know he cares,” the ad’s narrator, Nutter’s young daughter, says sweetly into the camera. Sweitzer beamed as the audience applauded his handiwork. “We’re talking to people who are consumers of TV,” he said. “They read TV the way we read books. High-concept, overly creative stuff doesn’t work.”
I think in an earlier post I attributed that ad to someone else. If so, I apologize for the error. The bulk of Silverstein's article is on the Art of Political Campaigning seminar that I went to one day last June. It was an interesting conference.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
PCN Call-In Show, with host Bryan Lochman
Tuesday, October 23
Topic: Changing PA Government
Guests: Rep. Josh Shapiro, Majority Chair, Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform
Rep. David Steil, Minority Chair, Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform
Here are my rough notes from the online broadcast of the show. I am trained neither as a journalist nor as a transcriptionist so “rough” is a kind adjective to use. Also, I apologize in advance for any errors or misinterpretations.
Questions from the host, Bryan Lochman (Q) as well as callers ( C) are included.
Q: house rejected a bill with some ethics reforms:
JS: You have to look at the record. Commission advanced more than 30 reforms adopted by house. Open Records bill delayed until next Monday to file and read amendments. Some of the other issues there are certainly debatable issues.
Q: any roadblocks
DS: There have been some amendments. Ultimately it did pass. With regard to constitutional convention, being considered by bipartisan reform caucus.
Q: open records
JS: not a member of the state govt comm., many of the amendments attached not productive. Several amendments I will file to strengthen the bill. Very important to look at the core issue. Currently citizen must prove why they should have access, new bill flips presumption, considered open unless agency can prove why it should be shielded. Will help lead the fight to improve bill
DS: already 50 amendments filed
Q: how does this work?
JS: amendments change what’s in bill, in the case of Rep. Joseph’s amendment that went in 24-0, others are more troublesome. In the process of addressing and fixing the bill. Groups opposed to the bill, there is some posturing going on. Have agreement on flipping presumptions, and other issues. There will be a lengthy and spirited floor debate. As discouraging as that long debate will be it is the reform process that lets it happen, encourages involvement of all in house
Q: reforms and then chairman of committee can change bill?
DS: any member has the right to amend a bill, different parts of the state, different district, representing constituents, then floor debate over amendments
Q: people worried that leadership not constituents drives action
DS: cannot recall a single instance when people voted against the interests of their district
Q: Dwight Evans proposal to study state constitution, voted down
JS: voted in favor of Evans proposal. This session is really a session where we have an opportunity to change, reform commission, significant burden and responsibility to change the way the state does his business. If we fail to reform this session I will be at the head of the pack for a constitutional convention. It is consistent with my view that it is too soon to call convention but a commission to study the constitution and if we need convention. Other reforms in the works, 10% spending cut to rein in legislative costs, etc.
DS: voted against the proposal. Agree always worthwhile to study. Make up of committee not balanced. Didn’t provide for commission to come up with means to amend constitution.
C: sunshine act, senate passed an amendment raising fine, now in house committee
DS: not familiar with that particular bill. Several bills on related issues. Senate passed legislation, house passing, then conference committee to come up with [missed this]
JS: not familiar with that bill
C: open records, [makes disparaging comments on the legislature]
JS: working on reform, more work to be done
C: 6 casinos up and running, open 24/7, free booze, comping system, bill HB 783 make gaming operators mail patrons monthly statements
DS: Rep. Clymer’s bill, passed house last year, did not pass in senate. Back this year, in house committee. Thinks it is problematic but doesn’t have a problem with it.
JS: not sure what the upside would be, could cost a lot for the state to mail statements
DS: As a Republican I people have to take responsibility for their own actions
JS: Democrats believe that too.
Q: size of the legislature, bill to cut the size
JS: bigger issue is cost of the legislature. When ask people why to cut size they say it costs too much. Compare to other full time legislatures, more expensive, in 3rd place nationally. We recognize need to reduce cost of legislature. Recommend immediate 10% cut, look at bipartisan staffing, purchasing agreements, etc.
DS: Compare our size to number of people we represent, we are 14th. Rural areas very difficult to represent if larger districts, house represent 60K, senate over 200K
Q: Bill to cut size of legislature, only chairwoman Rep. Josephs can release bill to house
DS: chair can control committee’s agenda, probably 80-100 bills before a committee. Chairs must take up bills with most need and urgency. There is a process for a committee to discharge responsibility of bill.
JS: Rep. Josephs has committed to holding hearings on that issue.
Q: looking at power of chair
DS: believe in automatic calendar, every bill must be considered at some point
JS: Dave and I have both voted for term limits for chairmen, healthy to have new leadership.
C: redistricting a bad idea, urban caucuses have too much power now. Senator Rose’s proposal on property taxes?
DS: there are a lot of efforts going on with tax reform, going to see some of those bills coming out of committee tomorrow. Bucks co members put together a website where people can leave suggestions on property tax reform
JS: I am on the finance committee and so will see the bill, have submitted measures to voters and voted down. Expanded prop tax rebate, need to do more
DS: There is a belief that act I failed. Did not. 6 parts to bill, only 1 failed
Q: measure defeated on how house ethics committee constituted
JS: reform commission looked at house ethics committee, policing arm for the house. Believe there needed to be some additional independence, under current rules house leaders get to appoint members, proposed that leaders appoint some , some chosen by house, wanted 2 hours of ethics education, compilation of ethics handbook. Unfortunately independence from leadership stripped out (gentlemen from philly took out).
Q: Kate Harper opposed naming members of ethics committee at random from people interested [video] is her analogy [that if the Phillies hired players based on who was interested her mother would be on the team] correct , end up with unqualified people?
DS: disagrees with baseball analogy. By selecting members at random from those interested, picking people interested, they would be good
C: reform process always turns out to be window dressing but really no changes, 2 hour ethics requirement, can’t teach someone how to be ethical in 2 hours you either are or aren’t. vote out all judges as another message
DS: a number of changes made in ethics resolution. One piece of the resolution, how committee made up, didn’t make it but rest of it passed. Made a number of changes, particularly important that ethics committee has a responsibility to come up with ethics training
Q: what can be taught in 2 hours
JS: not there to teach someone to be ethical. Lots of changes to rules, teach people about those issues. Reforms more than window dressing. Ethics bill – voted against it, not good enough, even though it was my bill. Made great progress but more to do.
C: my concern is clean air act, has asthma, doesn’t like smoke in restaurants
JS: senate passed smoking ban bill that had too many exceptions and holes in it. The house after several days of debate passed a bill with virtually no exceptions. Now goes to conference committee where differences ironed out.
C: sportsmen, takes 2 daughters hunting and fishing, straighten out game commission, take a look at their records and ethical conduct, unfair what they have done to the sportsmen
DS: you are talking to two suburban legislatures. Never had a phone call regarding game commission but have read a little about it. Committee on game commission very active
C: bonuses given in 4 caucuses. He and his wife work 4 jobs, kids in college
JS: apparently at the end of the last cycle bonuses given out by all four caucuses, theoretically to reward good work. Believe it’s an issue for 2 reasons, size of bonuses, agree with caller, too much. Second issue, subject of Attorney General’s investigation, looking into whether bonuses proper, for govt work or political work, leave that to AG. House Democratic caucus has outlawed practice of bonuses. Senate banned bonuses except for performance based with public criteria.
C: if someone is working for a member or caucus is line between legislative and campaign work clear?
DS; campaign work clearly cannot be done on government time, no work on behalf of caucus should be for campaign
C: how much do you pay for health care and retirement?
DS: has been a lot of discussion on compensation package for legislators, seems to be not competitive with private sector. Need to look at entire package. Some portions may not be competitive with private sector, some may go beyond, salaries and benefits. In terms of health care, does have co-pays and set asides. It is a pretty good plan.
JS: it is something we are looking at, speaker says he will create a commission to look at. I voted against pay raise and didn’t take it.
C: reform commission, what can be done to inform citizenry what local reps and senators do each day. Would like to be more informed but with work and kids has limited time, can’t watch PCN each night. Wants to be more informed through newspapers, etc.
JS: commend you for your interest. My responsibility as a legislator not only to come to H’burg and do job but must also keep constituents informed, held more than 30 townhall meetings last year. Now more time before voting so people can go to website and see what bills are up, now members vote, etc. reach out to local reps, call or write.
DS: access to internet important. We post what we do, committee meetings schedules, and so on. Important to be in touch with legislator. I send out weekly emails.
DS: one of the primary issues bipartisan reform caucus, with Rep. Mandarino, looking at that issue, probably will require a constitutional amendment, but process doesn’t require an amendment, just a commission.
C: skeptical of leadership of reform commission, and of Steil’s sincerity, don’t think some of these reps have been very genuine
DS: not sure what caller’s objection was to. Whole reform process began with [missed this] in 2005, in 1996 bipartisan group started some of the reforms that are finally begin put in place now.
JS: Ten years ago PCN wasn’t doing a call in show on reform but DS was in the trenches, we are benefiting from his work now.
C: two things disturb me. Debate on 447 resolution. At least one member less than willing to let it go through. Shapiro, you were interrogated by rep from Lehigh valley. Does the bipartisanship fall down in some debates and discussions
JS: I do remember the interrogation by Rep. Reichley, a skilled debater and legislator, he was off the mark and I don’t take it personally. He believed that members of the house shouldn’t have ethics education. He only got 40 votes on this. It is evident that we have a speaker elected with D and R votes, that DS and I co-chairs and adopted many of the reform commission’s recommendations adopted show that there is much bipartisanship.
DS: 447 resolution asking congress to override president’s veto on children’s health.
Q: what is the point of that
DS: to express our opinion to federal congress. Important that we express our will to congress.
C: act 1, DS said only 1 part was voted down.
DS: The other 5 parts were not on the ballot. Only part on the ballot was if voters wanted to shift property tax to local tax. All the other parts in place.
C: Rendell administration lawsuit to prevent implementation on state ethics commission on his cabinet secretaries [call lost]
JS: familiar with fact that some senators had objections to some cabinets but were later confirmed.
Q: redistricting and referendum
DS: some states have initiative and referendum, I am not a great supporter of this. We live in a representative democracy. With I&R no longer a republic
JS: don’t have a problem with I&R itself but does have a problem with how it played out in California. If there is a fiscal impact or understanding there must be an understanding of what it will mean
C: when can we shrink legislature. It’s too big. Too expensive
JS: We are too expensive. Have a 13 point plan to cut money from legislative spending.
DS: we voted and decided to cut expense not size.
C: eliminate incentive of poor govt, special interst groups, limit individual contributions
JS: I agree. We need contribution limits in PA. If someone gave me a million dollars there would be nothing illegal bout it. I wants to have same limits as federal govt. My legis would also increase disclosure, who gives and how much
DS: I agree. Money is a huge issue in campaigns and why we don’t have trust of the people. I won’t accept pac contributions.
C: [finish question] spouses of state cabinet secretaries work for organizations that get state monies
DS: can’t comment because administration has not provided any information on it.
Q: where does the speakers commission on reform go from here
JS: we exist and serve at wish of speaker. Stand ready to serve if there are more areas speakers wants us to look at. On the books until the end of this session
This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.
It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.
He’s no longer in PA, but Darrell Jones, the county Guiliani chairperson in Greenville, S.C., once held elected office here. From “Social issues dog Guiliani,” by Michael M. Phillips (10/22)
Gov. Rendell’s attention to hospital acquired infections is not mentioned in “Putting superbugs on the defensive,” by Theo Francis (10/23) but the thought is. A few quotes:
Nineteen states have adopted laws in recent years requiring hospitals to report overall infection rates publicly, with more likely to follow suit. And on Thursday, nearly two dozen federal lawmakers, headed by Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy, proposed legislation requiring nationwide public reporting.
So far, just four states have published infection rates for individual hospitals, and only one state, Pennsylvania, breaks out different types of infections.
Pennsylvania provides multiple reports on different kinds of infections, and lets consumers look up infection-related mortality, length-of-stay and cost data for several kinds of infections. A web site from Consumers Union, www.stophospitalinfections.org, has links to reports from each state, including Florida, according to Lisa McGiffert, director of the Stop Hospital Infections Campaign.
Two other tidbits from the article are that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has cut the incidence of MSRA rates in half since 2001, and that the state still soon require hospitals to test high risk patients for MRSA.
Brief mentions: Confluence Technologies, Inc. of Pittsburgh (10/22)
Black Box Corp. of Pittsburgh (10/24)
Penn Treaty American Corp of Allentown (10/24)
Last week there was a series of stories on a potential scandal involving the food purchased for and provided to troops in the Middle East. According to “Kuwait firm tied to food suit,” by Glenn R. Simpson (10/22):
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Philadelphia by an Iowa businesswoman, alleged collusion “to overcharge the U.S. government by millions of dollars.”
Jeannette South-Paul of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is quoted in “Treating diabetes and understanding culture,” (10/23)
One place we are not, and do not want to be, is in the list of states with the highest mortgage delinquency rates. “Lenders curb new mortgages in weaker areas,” by Ruth Simon (10/23) has a chart with the top 17 states and Pennsylvania is not on it. Yippee!
In related news, according to “With buyers sidelined, home prices slide,” by James R. Hagerty (10/25), Philadelphia is included in a chart of housing indicators in 28 major real-estate markets. Of those 28 markets, only 5 had lower loan payment overdue percentages. On the other hand, our employment outlook is listed as “weak.” The article mentions that condo developers are offering enticements to prospective buyers, such as paying their condo fees for a year.
Pennsylvania is one of the states listed as starting programs to teach girls relationship skills in “Fashion bullies attack – in middle school,” by Vanessa O’Connell (10/25)
From “Marketers use trickery to evade no-call lists,” by Jennifer Levitz and Kelly Greene (10/26), Pennsylvania is listed as one of the states whose attorneys general have taken legal action against such marketers, charging them with “falsely suggesting endorsements by the government or AARP.”
Other Interesting Tidbits
Friday, October 26, 2007
This is a list of bills that passed the Pennsylvania House or Senate this week, and mention of any noteworthy resolutions. Standard caveats apply (resolutions not generally included, list of sponsors deleted if it was too long - three lines in the originally formatting).
Our accountant friends at PICPA have provided their usual informative weekly update. They have some interesting things to say this week about a possible increase in the sales tax.
Other updates this week:
PA GOP Senate
PA Democratic Senate
PA GOP House (daily session updates)
PA Democratic House
Nothing caught my eye this week.
HB 8 Prior Printer's Nos. 7, 29.Printer's No. 34. An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, further providing for exclusion from the sales tax.
HB 11 Prior Printer's Nos. 10, 20, 30.Printer's No. 35. An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, further providing for exclusion from the sales tax.
HB 292 Prior Printer's Nos. 334, 1644.Printer's No. 2531. An Act amending the act of June 2, 1915 (P.L.736, No.338), known as the Workers' Compensation Act, further defining "employe."
HB 1094 Printer's No. 1325. An Act designating March 19 of each year as "Pennsylvania Military Heroes Day."
HB 1324 Prior Printer's No. 1773.Printer's No. 2586. An Act amending Title 51 (Military Affairs) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for educational leave of absence.
HB 118 Prior Printer's No. 145.Printer's No. 2529. An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, further providing for the definition of "compulsory school age" and for home education programs.
HB 1192 Printer's No. 1496. An Act providing for the designation of the building referred to as the Keystone Building in the City of Harrisburg as the Speaker James J. Manderino Office Building.
HB 1226 By Representatives MAJOR, GINGRICH, REICHLEY, SAYLOR, PICKETT, CURRY, J. EVANS, FABRIZIO, GERGELY, MURT, PALLONE, SIPTROTH, YOUNGBLOOD and CALTAGIRONE. Prior Printer's No. 1511.Printer's No. 2587. An Act amending the act of May 3, 1933 (P.L.242, No.86), referred to as the Cosmetology Law, amending the title of the act; providing for the definitions of "electrologist," "electrology," "electrology salon" and "electrology teacher"; further providing for membership of the State Board of Cosmetology; providing for scope of practice of electrology, for practice of electrology without a license, for qualifications, for eligibility requirements for the teaching of electrology, for licensure of electrology salons, for licensure reciprocity, for examinations, for continuing education for individuals licensed to practice or teach electrology and for electrology salon inspections; further providing for sanitary rules, for fees, for duration and renewal of licenses, for penalties and for regulations.
HB 1388 Printer's No. 1735. An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for grading of theft offenses.
HB 1511 By Representatives SHIMKUS, DERMODY, BELFANTI, BISHOP, BRENNAN, CURRY, CUTLER, HICKERNELL, JAMES, LENTZ, MAHONEY, MUNDY, SIPTROTH, MOUL, FABRIZIO and CALTAGIRONE. Prior Printer's Nos. 1866, 2559.Printer's No. 2656. An Act amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for notice and hearing in juvenile matters.
HB 1612 Prior Printer's Nos. 2051, 2534.Printer's No. 2657. An Act providing for testing standards for cigarette fire safety, for certification of compliance by manufacturers, for package markings and for enforcement and penalties; establishing special funds; and providing for sale of existing inventory, for manufacturers' sale to other states or foreign countries and for regulations and preemptions.
HB 1830 Prior Printer's No. 2431.Printer's No. 2585. An Act amending the act of December 19, 1990 (P.L.1234, No.204), known as the Family Caregiver Support Act, further providing for intent, for definitions, for caregiver support program, for reimbursements and for entitlement.
SB 886 By Senators McILHINNEY, RAFFERTY, FERLO, ROBBINS, COSTA, O'PAKE and ORIE. Prior Printer's Nos. 1034, 1195.Printer's No. 1442. An Act amending the act of February 19, 1980 (P.L.15, No.9), known as the Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act, further prohibiting certain acts.
HB 690 By Representatives COHEN, GEORGE, LEACH, DePASQUALE, HERSHEY, SCAVELLO, CLYMER, BELFANTI, BENNINGTON, FREEMAN, JOSEPHS, PALLONE, SIPTROTH, THOMAS, YOUNGBLOOD and CALTAGIRONE. Prior Printer's No. 776.Printer's No. 2637. An Act establishing the Plug-in Hybrid Task Force; and providing for its powers and duties.
HB 763 Printer's No. 884. An Act amending the act of June 2, 1915 (P.L.736, No.338), known as the Workers' Compensation Act, further defining "occupational disease."
HB 1109 By Representatives STABACK, BELFANTI, CALTAGIRONE, DeLUCA, FABRIZIO, GERGELY, HALUSKA, HERSHEY, HESS, JAMES, KORTZ, KOTIK, McGEEHAN, PETRONE, REICHLEY, J. WHITE, LEVDANSKY, HORNAMAN, DENLINGER, SIPTROTH and SONNEY. Prior Printer's No. 1338.Printer's No. 2638. An Act amending Title 30 (Fish) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing, in fishing licenses, for nonresident and tourist licenses, for one-day resident fishing licenses, for issuing agents and for license, permit and issuing agent fees.
HB 1801 By Representatives HARHAI, FREEMAN, BENNINGHOFF, CALTAGIRONE, KORTZ, KOTIK, SIPTROTH, K. SMITH, J. WHITE, YOUNGBLOOD and FABRIZIO. Printer's No. 2401. An Act amending the act of May 1, 1933 (P.L.103, No.69), known as The Second Class Township Code, further providing for supervisors.
HB 1838 Printer's No. 2444. An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, further providing for home education program.
HB 1877 By Representatives BUXTON, PAYNE, MARSICO and HELM. Printer's No. 2574. An Act amending the act of August 9, 1955 (P.L.323, No.130), known as The County Code, further providing for authorization of hotel tax.
SB 1065 By Senators ARMSTRONG, FOLMER and BRUBAKER. Prior Printer's No. 1367.Printer's No. 1465. An Act designating State Bridge No. 36-4009-0030-0000, the newly replaced bridge on Dillerville Road in the City of Lancaster, Lancaster County, as the Edward Anthony Davis Memorial Bridge.
HB 1644 Printer's No. 2119. An Act designating a portion of State Route 22/322 from the Mifflintown exit in Juniata County to the Juniata/Mifflin County line, as the Dr. L.G. Guiser Memorial Highway.
SB 861 By Senators GREENLEAF, RAFFERTY, PICCOLA, WASHINGTON, WONDERLING, BOSCOLA and PUNT. Prior Printer's Nos. 1048, 1194.Printer's No. 1467. An Act amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for the number of judges in the courts of common pleas.
HB 1017 Printer's No. 1269. An Act amending the act of July 5, 1989 (P.L.166, No.31), known as the Phosphate Detergent Act, further providing for exclusions and exceptions.
HB 33 By Representatives GEORGE and SURRA. Prior Printer's No. 58.Printer's No. 1418. An Act authorizing and directing the Department of General Services, with the approval of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Governor, to lease to Pine Township, Clearfield County, a certain tract of land situate in Pine Township, Clearfield County, for a consideration of $1.
SB 1133 By Senator CORMAN. Printer's No. 1459. An Act designating a portion of State Route 850 in Marysville Borough, Perry County, as the Army Private David E. Dietrich Memorial Highway.
PCN has been broadcasting a number of programs relating to the upcoming judicial elections. I was able to watch their broadcast of the supreme court judicial candidates forum that was held in Philadelphia this past Wednesday.
Here are my rough notes. As always I apologize for any errors or misinterpretations. Several area newspapers have published articles on the forum and I encourage you to read those as well.
Judicial Candidates Forum
Pennsylvania Bar Association
Pennsylvanians for a Modern Court
Debra Todd, present
Maureen Lally-Green, present
Michael Krancer, present
Seamus McCaffrey not able to attend
Michael [did not catch last name] from the PA Bar Association introduces forum. Lynn Marks from the PA for Modern Courts moderates program. Judges and courts have been in the news a lot lately so the more information that gets out to the people the better. Five sponsoring organizations, including Committee of 70, Philadelphia NAACP, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and League of Women Voters of Philadelphia.
Judicial elections are in odd numbered years to keep judges away from the rough and tumble political fray. As a result people often call odd years elections as “off year” elections. The role of a judge in our system of govt is very very important. We all should be informed about who sits on the courts and learn as much as we can about the candidates.
PA for Modern Courts does not believe that judicial elections run as partisan elections, with judges running as part of one party, is a good system.
Three people asking questions. Sandra Shea, editorial board at Daily News, Irv Randolph of Tribune, Hank Grezlak of Legal intelligencer.
SS: What does your party membership say about you and your outlook on legal matters.
DT: Running as a D because I am a D. Dad a steelworker. That background instilled me with some very important values, inclusivity, level playing field. I don’t believe those values are peculiar to any one political party. Values we all could embrace. Values I would be proud to take to the PA Supreme Court. Election is partisan as we run as part of a party but not running to be representatives of any one constituency but as judges on the supreme court. My role as a judge is to decide each case on its own merits, guardian of the constituency.
ML-G: Run as Republican because born and bred a Republican. Parents were Republicans. In many respects that is how one becomes a member of a party. Tenets of the party, respect for the role of the judge within the system. But when one becomes a judge one takes off the hat of partisan politics and puts on the hat of a judge. We are to decide cases, not to bow to partisan politics or any kind of personal belief on anything but to be a decision maker based on the law and the facts presented to us and the issues as presented to us.
MK: Raised in a Republican background, believes in opportunity and the right to rise. All judges, whether merit selected or elected came up through a political system. Judicial philosophy is what is important. My philosophy is textualism, not activism. Don’t write words into a constitution that aren’t there.
SS: What does your party membership says about you:
DT: Democratic and coming from a union family, inclusiveness, hard work, integrity, level playing field.
ML-G: honest and integrity
MK: My party status states its belief in equal opportunity and the right to rise, honesty and integrity
IR: [question about race and ethnicity and how to ensure fairness in the court]
ML_G: Strength of judicial system based on belief that everyone is getting fair and impartial treatment. The extent that people do not get that treatment confidence declines. I chair a committee on race gender and ethnic fairness. Recently proposed procedures to supreme court, soon to be implemented. If people believe they were treated unfairly, it offers options.
MK: Do play a role. Been talking to people about this. Look at Jena 6. Up to each of us to take a stand and every individual needs to be wary of those inherent injustices in our system. I teach kids in Germantown how to write so they can get into college.
DT: Great questions particularly given the diversity within the court system. Our state supreme court is the oldest in the nation, over 280 years old. In all of that time there has never been a Democratic woman elected to the supreme court. Only one woman, Sandra Newman who has since moved on. View the judicial approach taken by judges as instrumental [missed this] Variety is the spice of life. Not all candidates are the same. Textualism you are being guided towards the role model like Justice Scalia. I am not like that. Constitution is a living breathing document. Textualism can set us back.
HG: In recent years the supreme court has taken a hit with public, pay raise, etc. What can court do?
MK: More transparency, PCN in courtroom. Judges pay attention to the constitution and follow it. Pay raise a big issue. My court didn’t get the pay raise (chief judge of state environmental hearing board). I won’t take a pay raise if elected.
DT: Legislative process by which pay raise enacted a tainted process. Public responded to process. Limited disclosure, etc. Returned pay raise and return it quarterly. Do that because it limited public’s trust. Reach out more to the public, make it accountable in terms of administrative function. PCN is in court room of superior courtroom [DT, ML-G and McCaffrey on superior court]. When public see what happens in courtroom they think better of it.
ML-G: The entire society of PA has learned a lot form what happened with the pay raise. Process tainted. What many including I have learned. Transparency is important. Accountability is important. Accountability to constitution what it requires and commands. What can we do better. Education, duty to educate public about what we do. Access by all citizens to the courts. When we as a system fail to listen we are not doing our job. Keep channels of communication open.
SS: Judicial reform, platform put forward by Bruce Ledewitz,. Should private meetings between judges and legislators? [blogger's note, see more info on Democracy Rising site.
DT: Agree with some of platform, increased openness and transparency. Did not agree with others because they make a presumption that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. There are a lot of good things about our justice system. Supreme Court justices should not be having private meetings with legislators about pay raises, etc.
ML-G: familiar with platform, used to teach at same school so know Ledewitz. The administrative categories reflect the need the court has to receive a broader base of information. The bigger theme is let’s broaden the voice and that is a good thing.
MK: Please look at the Democracy Rising website and look at questionnaire. I don’t like the secret meetings. Judiciary should be independent and not talk to other branches of govt. System is broken. Perception is reality. Need look no further than Justice Castille’s dissension in casino case. There is a perception out there that the system needs [missed this]
DT: The superior court and supreme court are part of the judicial branch. The court Judge Krancer sat on is part of executive branch not judicial. When you talk insider or outsider a factor is experience in judicial branch.
IR: Judicial philosophy?
MK: Textualism. I apply the words of the constitution, don’t let personal predilections dictate social policy. Judges are the least democratic branch of govt. Justice Scalia, Justice Jackson, Justice White as role models.
ML-G: Reflected in 10 years of time on superior court. Well-versed in law, read law, do not add or subtract words. Take a look at the law that applies. There are times when stare decisis must be re-examined. Would not legislate from the bench. Policy statements are for the legislature.
DT: Not a textualist. Role model is Justice Brennan, architect of civil rights. Strict textualism is dangerous, can result is a set back of civil rights womens rights and workers rights. If only look at Constittution as written on the day it was written does not include privacy.
MK: Texutalism does not mean try to read Constitution and get into mind of authors. I take words of statutes and apply what reasonable meaning is. 4th amendment, devices that can see into houses, privacy of the home and today those kinds of devices violate search and seizure.
DT: Not in least bit confused about concept of textualism. Not saying one right and one is wrong, but voters have very different candidates to pick from
ML-G: Have 10 years of experience and a record. PA Bar Association gave me a highly recommended rating, said my decision making fair and impartial. Textualism the underlying question is how much is a judge allowed to expand or contract what is before the judge. Such as privacy, not exactly in the words of the text but courts have found that it exists.
HG: Castille dissension in casino question. Called the board’s move extraordinary anti-democratic vote.
DT: You’ve finally got into a question I don’t think I can answer directly. This question will continue to come before the supreme court and cannot speak to issues that may come before the court, especially specific cases.
ML-G: Agree with DT. Must believe get fair and impartial treatment and not pre-decided. Must be sensitive to role of courts in check and balance. The third balance is both a check and a balance.
MK: I will comment on that. I think Justice Castilles’ decision was directly dead on. It was anti-democratic, something that would have happened behind the Iron Curtain.
SS: Issue of reform. What exactly can you do if elected to help move court towards reforms?
ML-G: In terms of judicial site. Having been on superior court for 10 years and consulted with supreme court I have some experience in how the court decides cases and procedures used. Superior court heard 8K cases this year and I wrote over 200 opinions. Take this experience to supreme court to help move cases along.
DT: I agree with Judge L-G that superior court is workhorse of judicial system. Used to having a massive document. Accustomed to a big docket and an efficient operation. Superior court of PA recognized as one of the most efficient in US.
MK: Open and public rule making. All written opinions. On supreme court not always a sufficient opinion. Bring PCN into courtroom. Much more aggressive judicial outreach. Interact with public. Faster decisions.
Questions from the audience.
Describe your biggest mistake as a judge and what did you learn?
DT: We have all made mistakes. I have learned how to improve my legal writing. Went back to school to get LLM to enhance judicial abilities. I think get better each year.
ML-G: Would echo that you get better each year. Early on we submitted grievance procedures to supreme court but did not have all voices at the table and procedures were rejected. We were too narrow so now insists on hearing from everyone, then decision more valid.
MK: There was a case on harms benefit analysis. Went along with the majority on a summary judgment even though thought it had to be a subjective decision. A trial came along and realized that my opinion was correct that it could only be subjective.
Q: What is so inherently wrong with legislative contact with judiciary?
MK: Judicial independence. Supposed to be a separation between executive and judicial branches. Must maintain a separation on policy issues.
ML-G: The chief justice represents a third branch of govt. Not just individual calling individual. Judicial independence threads through all of this. Confidence of public in the system. Accountability can only occur when there is this public way of seeing what is happening.
DT: [she discusses merits of specific event – chief justice called legislator about judicial pay raise]
Q: How much money do you need to raise and who are major donors?
DT: That is the part of the elective system that is the most troubling. Not a proponent of merit selection but of merit election. More scrutiny and a more informed electorate. Elect judges in light of day a good thing. Problem is the financial part of it. We don’t like it any more than you do. Would rather be raising money for charity than judicial campaign. Most funds come from lawyers. Usually need a million dollars.
ML-G: It does take a lot of money to run a judicial election. For many of us the primary group is lawyers. The underlying question is how do you keep yourself fair and impartial. Had to develop a protocol for dealing with that issue. Will not sit on a case where the party in front of me donated to my campaign. Recusal is a matter to each judge. Decision making should be fair and impartial.
MK: My donor list is different. Many of my donors are my family and my friends. A ton of first time givers.
Q: How do voters learn more about you:
DT: www.debratoddforjustice.com, democracyrising. Websites of bar associations esp PA Bar Association gave me highest recommendation
ML-G: www.lallygreen.com also PA bar association
MK: www.krancerforsupreme.com, democracy rising, legal intelligencer, inky
DT: Thanks to hosts and those attending. Believe in merit election and appreciate opportunity. Protecting our commonwealth’s children is a passion. Conducted research and spoken on this. The sheer volume of cases I hear on superior court is alarming. Want to raise public awareness.
ML-G: Also thank everyone. People want a justice experienced in the law and how the court works, fair and impartial, has public service. Concerns are access concerns, people are treated with dignity and respect.
MK: Thank you. All power is inherent in the people. Judging is a lot about attitude. Judges work for the people.
LM: League of Women Voters of PA and Philly, Phil NAACP also sponsors
Urge voters to carefully consider individual reasons to retain judges.
Andrea Mulrine of PA LWV: thanks to all. Nov 1st issue of Daily News will have voters guide. Palwv.org to access info on candidates.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Three of our regional elected officials are hosting fairs or workshops in the area this weekend or in the near future. Check out the offerings Rick Taylor, Bryan Lentz, and Allyson Schwartz.
Healthy lifestyle education, health screening, family safety and some entertainment tossed in for good measure will be offered at the first Family Health and Wellness Fair sponsored by Rep. Rick Taylor, D-Montgomery, Saturday, Oct. 27 at Samuel Carpenter Park in Horsham.
The free event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Bring the whole family to learn about home safety, family nutrition and exercise, protecting the environment, the Tuition Assistance Program, environmental protection, the fight against Internet child predators, home energy assistance, and other state programs that can benefit individuals and families,” Taylor said.
Community involvement will play a key role in the program, which is geared toward people of all ages. The Horsham Fire Co. and the Horsham Police Department will have presentations on home, family and child safety; Abington Memorial Hospital will provide health screenings; and the Eastern Montgomery Karate Academy will stage demonstrations.
For the kids, Rohm and Haas Co. will present fun chemistry experiments and Art on Your Face will have colors flying with face painting.
Others on hand to provide information and answer questions will include representatives of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Congresswoman Allison Schwartz ’s office, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
Taylor and his local office staff will be available to provide information and assistance on dealing with state programs and agencies. In addition, Taylor will be glad to take questions and discuss issues facing the legislature, including his campaign to toughen Pennsylvania ’s Megan ’s Law to better protect children from sexual predators and the bill he is sponsoring with Rep. Mike Vereb , R-Montgomery that would provide $30 million for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund to continue removing pollutants from old industrial sites.
State Rep. Bryan R. Lentz , D-Delaware, invites residents of the 161st legislative district to his first annual Senior Citizens’ Expo next week.
The free event will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26 at the Brookhaven Borough Gymnasium, 2 Cambridge Road in Brookhaven.
The expo will feature more than 40 exhibitors from state, local, county and federal agencies offering information on programs of interest to seniors. The Department of Revenue will be on hand to answer any questions, including questions regarding the status of Property Tax/Rent Rebate applications. Free health screenings will also be offered.
Scheduled exhibitors include Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Crozer-Keystone Health Systems, Community Transit of Delaware County, Inc., the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, SEPTA, the Pennsylvania State Treasury – Bureau of Unclaimed Property, and the Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging. Representatives from Congressman Joe Sestak ’s office will be in attendance as well.
This event is offered free of charge as a community service. Refreshments and door prizes will be available.
In keeping with her emphasis on environmental and energy issues, and her "walk the walk" philosophy, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is offering a series of workshops:
Energy Conservation Workshop
Experts will provide tips and strategies on the best and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy use and costs.
Tuesday, October 23 from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm
Torresdale Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia
3079 Holme Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19136
Wednesday, October 24 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Lawncrest Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia
6098 Rising Sun Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19111
Thursday, October 25 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm
Grace Church and the Incarnation
2645 E. Venango Street
Philadelphia, PA 19134
Monday, November 5 from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm
Lansdale Public Library
301 Vine Street
Lansdale, PA 19446
Wednesday, November 7 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm
Senior Adult Activity Center of Montgomery County - Ambler
45 Forest Avenue
Ambler, PA 19002
Thursday, November 8 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm
Abington Free Library
1030 Old York Road
Abington, PA 19001
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Peter Amuso is the Democratic candidate for Montgomery County District Attorney. He has been endorsed by Gov. Ed Rendell, Congressional Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Patrick Murphy, State Senator Connie Williams, State Representatives Josh Shapiro, Larry Curry, and Daylin Leach. Last February I posted a brief biographical note about Amuso and a fuller biography is available on his website.
The crime statistics referred to here can be viewed at the Pennsylvania State Police Uniform Crime Reports site.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s office has over 30 assistant district attorneys and a number of staff. What in your background qualifies you to lead so many people?
Two experiences in particular: my military service, and my time on the School Board of Springfield Township. As an officer in the Army, I learned to lead groups of people to accomplish goals and missions through a chain of command. I mentored and trained subordinates, and enforced rules. As a member of the School Board, I oversee an organization with a much larger budget, and many more employees, then the District Attorney’s Office.
Are you satisfied with the crime clearance rates in Montgomery County? How do they compare to other counties?
The crime clearance rates in Montgomery County are comparable to other counties in our part of the state. The issue in Montgomery County is the steep increase in crime rates, particularly violent crime- according to the official crime statistics kept by the Pennsylvania State Police, the overall crime rate in Montgomery County has increased 8.5% since 2002. The violent crime rate is up 19.3% in the same time period. Robbery is up 22.6% and the rate of robberies committed by firearm is up a staggering 48%. This is unacceptable, and as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the County, the responsibility rests with the District Attorney.
We’ve got to do something different. Simply waiting for crimes to be committed is not acceptable. That is why I am going to implement the gun violence prevention and community prosecution plans described below.
There are certain “hot spots” in the county that consistently have more overall per capita crime than others. What accounts for that and what can be done about it?
Actually, I think it is a mistake to dismiss any increase in crime as due to the “hot spots” of the conventional wisdom: which are usually considered to be Pottstown and Norristown. Crime is actually increasing everywhere in Montgomery County. In 2002 in Abington Township there were 7 armed robberies; in 2006 there were 20, a nearly 300% increase. I’ve met with Republicans in Upper Hanover Township who have expressed concern about the number of armed bank robberies in that area. The deli I go to every other morning in Wyndmoor- Flannery’s on Willow Grove Ave.- was held up at 6am on September 11 of this year. This is just few blocks from my house, from my backyard where my children play.
The common denominator to armed robberies in Pennsburg and in Wyndmoor and in Norristown is easy access to guns, which is made possible by illegal gun sales. I have outlined my plans to establish a Montgomery County Gun Violence Task Force that will focus on illegal gun sales across the County:
1. I will seek permission from the U.S. Attorney to assign one Assistant District Attorney permanently to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to ensure that gun offenders receive the maximum penalty possible.
2. I will conduct sting operations at gun shops in Montgomery County to ensure compliance with existing Pennsylvania laws concerning the sale of guns, and to reduce illegal purchases, including straw purchases, of weapons.
3. When a gun recovered from a crime is traced to an original purchaser, he will mandate the review of all gun purchase records for that person and the interview of that person, so that straw purchases can be discovered, and patterns of gun trafficking identified.
Further, I will advocate in Harrisburg for two gun violence prevention bills that have been stuck in Harrisburg for awhile: one that would limit handgun purchases to one a month, and one that would require reporting a lost or stolen weapon to police. So many illegal handguns come first from legal multiple purchases- someone will buy several handguns and then sell them on the street. Then, when one of the handguns are used in a crime, and traced back to that person, he will claim that he lost the weapon awhile ago. These laws will greatly reduce the flow of illegal weapons, and give us another tool to go after straw purchasers.
It is also important to recognize that Montgomery County is not separated from Philadelphia by a wall- guns and crime can flow freely back and forth across Stenton Avenue. With over 70 guns shops in Montgomery County (compared to less than 20 in Philadelphia), cracking down on illegal gun trafficking in the County should have a positive impact in the City as well.
What do you think of “specialty courts” like drug court for drug offenses, or mental health court?
I think specialty courts can be important part of the effort to reduce crime rates because they can reduce recidivism rates. In particular, drug courts have been shown to be very effective in reducing recividivism. Unlike the current District Attorney’s Office, I would fully support the Drug Court established by Judge O’Neill last year, and would work with him to expand it. By providing first-time nonviolent offenders with a treatment program, enforced by the judge, Drug Court is a commonsense solution that makes out streets safer and reduces overcrowding in the prisons.
Do you approve of the way the DA’s office is currently organized? What, if anything, would you change?
I will shift the office to a community-based prosecution model. Instead of having prosecutors organized by crime specialty, I will organize them geographically. This is something being championed by the National District Attorney’s Association, through their National Center for Community Prosecution:
When prosecutors are assigned geographically, they develop relationships with not only local law enforcement, but local schools, churches, and other community organizations. The District Attorney’s Office can then work with those organizations and citizens in the community to develop local solutions to crime: targeting nuisance bars, condemning known drug houses, or establishing drug-free zones. The improved relationships and local knowledge also aid significantly in the investigation and prosecution of all crime.
This process will take some time, and I certainly intend to keep some specialized units at the County level- in particular the domestic violence and sex crimes unit. Nonetheless, it is critical that the District Attorney’s Office not just focus on processing cases, but in actually making the County a safer place. My goal is to do reduce the crime rate, and not watch it continue to rise.
How can you keep all aspects of partisanship out of an elected office? Should you even try?
You make a good point, and there are some good arguments about making District Attorney an appointed position, and not a partisan elected office. However, the District Attorney’s Office is a partisan elected position, so you have to work with what you have.
You absolutely must try to keep all aspects of partisanship of the prosecutor’s office. One of the U.S. Attorneys purged by George Bush and Alberto Gonzalez, Bud Cummins, put the issue in context, in words that apply to state prosecutors as well:
Put simply, the Department of Justice lives on credibility. When a federal prosecutor sends FBI agents to your brother's house with an arrest warrant, demonstrating an intention to take away years of his liberty, separate him from his family, and take away his property, you and the public at large must have absolute confidence that the sole reason for those actions is that there was substantial evidence to suggest that your brother intentionally committed a federal crime. Everyone must have confidence that the prosecutor exercised his or her vast discretion in a neutral and nonpartisan pursuit of the facts and the law. Being credible is like being pregnant -- you either are, or you aren't. If someone says they "kind of" believe what you say, they are really calling you a liar. Once you have given the public a reason to believe some of your decisions are improperly motivated, then they are going to question every decision you have made, or will make in the future. That is a natural and predictable phenomenon.
The prosecutorial power is the most sacred a government has, and must be kept sacrosanct. I’ve outlined my plan to remove partisan politics from the D.A.’s office, following the same basic rules as exist in at the state and federal levels, and in Philadelphia:
1. No prosecutor will run for political office while employed as an assistant district attorney.
2. No prosecutor will serve as a committeeperson, an area leader, or in any other office or position in a political party.
3. No prosecutor will manage, serve on the staff of, or volunteer for a political campaign.
4. No prosecutor will solicit contributions for a political candidate.
5. No prosecutor will engage in political activity in the office or while on duty.
I have also outlined what I will do to keep politics out of the D.A.’s office:
1. I will not solicit, nor accept, contributions to my re-election campaign from my prosecutors.
2. I will not involve my prosecutors in my re-election campaign in any way.
3. I will not run my re-election campaign from the District Attorney’s Office.
4. I will not take party registration into account when hiring new prosecutors.
Getting politics out of the District Attorney’s Office is critical to the credibility of the justice system.
Tell us about your work as a Judge Advocate in Albania and Germany?
I went to Georgetown on a four-year Army ROTC scholarship; in return, I owed the Army four years of active duty service. I delayed my active duty commitment to go to Harvard Law School. After Harvard, I went on active duty and attended the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s School in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the graduated from the U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia , where I earned my parachute wings.
My first duty station was at headquarters of V Corps in Heidelberg, Germany. I was the Legal Assistance Officer at Patton Barracks, where I provided free legal advice to all members of the local military community on any issue they had, except for criminal issues. Everyday was a different experience, and I learned a lot about a lot of a wide range of areas of the law. My next position was on battlestaff for V Corps, where I provided the Corps commander with law of war advice. During the 1999 bombing of Serbia by NATO, the headquarters of V Corps deployed to Tirana, Albania, as Task Force Hawk to provide artillery and attack helicopters to the war effort. I worked in targeting, providing legal advice on issues like collateral damage. Once the bombing campaign was over, I traveled northern Albania paying farmers and villagers for damages the Army may have caused during training for the mission in Kosovo. The Albanians were so grateful that the United States respected their private property enough to pay them for damage we caused- it was enforcement of the rule of law at its most important and basic level.
I began my prosecutorial duties when I was still with Task Force Hawk, and became the lone Army prosecutor in Heidelberg upon my return from Albania. Heidelberg is home to both the Headquarters of the U.S. Army in Europe, as well as V Corps, making it the largest American military community in Germany. After serving as prosecutor there for one year, I was attached to the 1st Bridge, 1st Armored Division, as member of the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service, which defends soldiers facing military justice action. One of the best things about the Army is tremendous responsibility it gives you from day one. As a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, I simply had to try whatever cases came up. If it happened in the units I was responsible for, I had to deal with it- there were no other lawyers or agencies for me to punt cases to. But in the process, I developed excellent relationships with the command and senior noncommissioned officers in the unit. When I left Germany, the first sergeant of one of the tank companies stopped me on post to thank me for the work I had done for his soldiers- he knew that their rights would be vigorously enforced if they were represented by me.
It was excellent trial experience- the federal rules of evidence applied, and a military trial looks exactly like a civilian trial, except everyone is in uniform. In a lot of ways, it was a more difficult system for prosecutors then civilian trials: the juries were all senior officers and sergeants, and the jury could ask questions. The accused soldier had broader protection from questioning than just your typical Miranda rights, making for bruising battles about whether or not incriminating statements could come in. Most of the cases were drug-related or involved thefts, but there were many violent crimes as well. It was certainly the most intense period of my legal career.
Your father and maternal grandfather have or were both involved in public service and held or ran for elected office. What influence did that have on you?
Both had a tremendous influence on my life.
My mother’s father, Augustine “Justi” Leonard, was born in the village of Cerda, Sicily, in 1909, and came to this county in 1914 with his mother and older brother. My great- grandfather had already settled in Mingo Junction, Ohio, a small steel mill town along the West Virginia panhandle, 30 miles west of Pittsburgh. He worked in the steel mill, and when Justi graduated from the local parish grade school, which stopped at 10th grade, my great-grandfather insisted that Justi go to work full-time in the mill. My grandfather wanted to finish his education, but my great-grandfather would not hear of it. Thus, at the age of 16, my grandfather, with the help of the pastor of the parish, left his home, and moved in with another family across town. From there he finished high school, attended Georgetown, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati Law School in the class of 1931.
He then worked as a Deputy Attorney General in Columbus, Ohio, in the 1930s, before returning home to Mingo Junction to open a private practice. After service in World War II, my grandfather continued his law practice, while also serving as attorney for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, and as the attorney for the City of Steubenville. Fluent in Italian, he was known for providing legal advice to the Italian immigrant community for reduced or no fee. He carried on his law practice until the late 1990s.
My grandfather’s defiant risk in seeking an education, done at the young age of 16, has always been to me the shining example of doing what you know if right, whatever the costs. His service to his fellow Italian immigrants has stayed with me as the importance of treating all people with respect.
My father ran for the Pennsylvania State House in 1980. At the time we lived in Lebanon County, and 1980 was not a great year to be running as a Democrat. While my father did not win the election, the experience of watching him on the campaign trail (he took me and my young brother to many events that summer) inspired me to be politically active as well. My father also continued his public service, although not in partisan politics, through his work as school superintendent.
Recently I heard the state Attorney General talking about the number of labor unions that represent the employees of his office. Are there similar issues in the District Attorney’s office?
There are none as far as I am aware. I firmly believe in the right workers to organize.
You are currently on the Springfield School Board. What can be done to steer at risk youth away from crime?
First key is identifying at-risk youth, so it is important that students feel they can talk to at least one teacher if they are having problems. Similarly, teachers must be trained to recognize problems in their students. If a student is at-risk, we can make sure that they get the counseling they need, and that they feel supported and valued at school, so that they don’t seek validation from gangs or other criminals. We need to make sure they get involved with extracurricular activities at school, and that they understand that there is a future for them if they work hard and keep their nose clean. Open lines of communication between students and teachers are essential.
I’m intrigued by the “broken windows” theory, that cracking down on minor offenses like graffiti and breaking windows reduces crime overall. Some theorists and practitioners agree; others don’t. What do you think?
I agree with it. Much of community prosecution is the prosecutor’s version of the “broken windows” theory. By addressing the quality-of-life crimes identified by the community, community-prosecution can reduce crime. When a prosecutor is assigned geographically, she will be more willing and able to concentrate on quality-of-life crimes that can get ignored when you are juggling cases from across the county. If you can eliminate nuisance bars, you can prevent the violent fights that can occur there. If you can aggressively condemn abandoned houses, you can prevent drug dealing from them. This is the only way we will be able to reduce the County’s rising crime rate.
What are the three greatest dangers to the citizens of Montgomery County? What can the District Attorney’s office do to decrease those dangers and what can citizens do?
Honestly, the biggest danger currently facing the citizens of Montgomery County is gun violence, and I have seen it everywhere- from my neighborhood, to Pottstown, to the western end of the County. With a dramatic increase in the armed robbery rate of 50% since 2002, we need to crack down on access to illegal handguns. That will be my first priority as District Attorney. Citizens can be alert, and certainly report any information they may have on illegal gun sales are occurring to their local police, but the best way to reduce gun violence in the short term is to reduce the supply of illegal guns.
What question didn’t I ask that you would like to answer?
There is a good chance that the proposed new Open Records law for Pennsylvania will be voted on tomorrow.
You can read more about the bill at Pass Open Records (passopenrecords.org).
The Pennsylvania Progressive has posted a press release from the Election Reform Network (sorry the permalink for that post isn't working -- it was posted on on Oct. 23rd).
For more information see Open Records PA.
Monday, October 22, 2007
The two candidates for Montgomery County District Attorney were on WNPV 1440’s Comment Please by Univest program last Tuesday, October 16.
Again, I was very impressed with host Darryl Berger’s ability to introduce topics and steer the conversation without being intrusive.
These are rough notes from the online recorded program. There were items mentioned that went too quickly or I did not understand and so did not note. Please excuse the omissions. Apologies in advance also for any errors or misinterpretations.
The crime statistics they mention are available from the Pennsylvania State Police Uniform Crime Reports.
The debate was also described in an article on Phillyburbs, "DA Candidates spar over their experience," by Jacob Fenton 10/17
Risa Ferman (caution: website automatically opens a sound file that doesn't seem to have a pause button)
Format: opening statement, questions, closing statement
RF: Thanks for having us. Running for DA, chief law enforcement officer, been in DA’s office for 15 yrs, past 6 yrs as second in command, dealing with everything that comes through the DA’s office, many endorsements and support of law enforcement community. The reason is I am the only person who has experience, knowledge, knowledge of PA laws, won’t need on the job training.
PA: Thanks, it’s good to be back. Friend owns a deli in Springfield Twp. Robbed, gun to his head, 4 blocks from my house. Woman in Pottstown, won’t let grown son go to corner store because of holdups. Under leadership of opponent, Montco become a less safe place, new ideas in combating crime, illegal handguns, prosecutors in our streets.
Q: crime statistics
PA: meaningful crime statistics are the ones maintained by Uniform Crime Reports compiled by state police. Meaningful statistic is crime rate. If crime rate goes up higher than population growth there is a problem. Opponent says crime rate gone down but not true, gone up. Violent crime rate gone up over 20% since 2002.
RF: It really shows Pete doesn’t know what he’s looking at. As population goes up so does crime rate, what is important to look at is per capita rate. I pulled statistics, from 1999 to 2005, per capita crime numbers down, nonviolent down 9%. Montco conviction rate an astounding 98%. We have a very coordinated approach, work with state and local police, with other county and Philadelphia DA’s office.
PA. The number of violent crimes reported by state police in has gone up 400. A 98% conviction rate is all well and good but we need a DA who will make the county safer.
RF: With all due respect his numbers are wrong. Reality is Montco is a great place to live. Lived in Montco over 3 decades, decided this is where my husband and I wanted to raise a family because this would be a safe place to raise the children we wanted to have. Peter is a newcomer to Montco but he and his wife had to make the same assessment. He could have moved anywhere but they moved here where it was safe and had good schools. Life is not appreciably different from 3 or 4 years ago when he moved in. We live near Philadelphia which has serious crime. We’ve only had 5 murders in Montco because we can prevent crime where we can and prosecute it when it happens.
Q: Crime in Montco among people who know each other?
PA: Armed robberies are up and not among people who know each other. Yes, we chose to live here and it was safe, but now robberies in my neighborhood. Armed robberies are not crimes of passion, but random
Q: bank robberies lately
RF: We have serious problems to deal with. We need seasoned professionals to solve those problems. Cases aren’t solved overnight but we work together and work to get them off the streets.
Q: resources, DA’s office has $12 million budget.
PA: To combat rising violent crime rate w have to take a more aggressive proactive approach. I would implement community based prosecution, championed by the national DA’s association, called the future of prosecution. Crime problems all over the county, not just Norristown. Reorders assets to create ties to local communities. Learn local community, local institutions, not just law enforcement but schools, etc. Work with community, there’s a problem with this office, this nuisance bar, this overgrown park. Been very successful in other areas.
RF: His ideas reflect a lack of understanding of what we do now. DA’s office now working with local communities to target areas that need our attention. Community based policing better in large areas where no one has a connection with local community. In Montco, 52 separate police agencies or organizations have tremendous local ties. I live in Abington, and Chief Kelly has a great knowledge of area. Having individual police depts. Focus on local problems can funnel information to DA’s office. DA’s office is centralized and can focus resources.
PA: All the more reason to have local prosecutors work with those police departments. People tell me there is a difficulty getting in touch with DA’s office or prosecutors bluster in when there’s a problem. What’s going on now hasn’t worked. People concerned about daylight robberies.
Q: Organization of DA’s office
RF: over past 15 years there have been a number of changes. Certain types of crime and laws that govern those crimes very specialized. Just like medicine specialized prosecution now specialized. I was a child abuse prosecutor, different kind of work than narcotics. At this point I have worked in all of it but subject prosecution allows people to specialize. We have a sex crimes unit, an economics crime unit which has had an explosion in recent years. Less gun crimes more computer crimes. Detectives and DA’s specialize in that. Focus on different kinds of crimes, now forming elder crime unit, an assistant DA and team of detectives working on that. Two things I envision. Looked to address problems as they come up, but need to be more proactive. Started Internet crimes unit. Now working on elder abuse unit, opening a children’s advocacy center. A constant effort to identify what sort of problems we face and go after them proactively.
PA: We need to do something different to address growing violent crime problem. Organize the office based largely on geographic needs. Analyze crime trends, look at office, and make geographic assignments, but keep some specialized units, like domestic abuse.
PA: If we have someone in the office for 15 years and doesn’t understand violent crime on the rise we need someone different. Proud of my experience, Harvard Law School, 4 years active duty in Judge Advocate General’s office, prosecutor in largest American military community in Germany, tried dozens of criminal cases, thefts, drugs crimes, violent crimes. I know what it takes to win cases. My experience prosecuting crime in the army applies to Pennsylvania courts, same rules of evidence, same theater of the courtroom, ready from day 1 to go after problems.
Q: RF hired by Mike Marino did not come from DA’s office
RF: Marino was an assistant district attorney then left and came back. The idea that Peter’s year of prosecuting cases in Germany is not the same. The PA Rules of Criminal Procedure is not the same. They are different. He’s never once had to apply those laws. What happens if at 2 a.m. he gets a call asking if he needs a search warrant, is Peter going to get on the computer and look it up. The law enforcement community knows I know the law. I have law school interns that have more experience with Montco courts than he has. Not disrespecting his military service. But how many cases has he tried in front of juries in Montco. Marino had experience. I have the experience and the skills and support of law enforcement community.
PA: and yet with all that experience she doesn’t under stand that violent crime is up.
Q: getting guns off the street
PA: publicly up front and aggressive about going after gun sales, form gun control task force, pay close attention to gun shops and gun sales. Be very public about it. In Chicago they did that and sales of illegal guns went down. One factor behind a lot of crime, access to hand guns. Current focus is on locking people up for a long time if they use illegal guns. Certainly do that but focus on stopping straw sales and make it a priority and let people know we are going after them.
RF: First thing he says as a plan is something we have already done. Our attorney general has a task force set up with Philly DA to go after straw purchases. Notion that AG’s office was looking to Philly and not Montco tells me that focus is in the city. Illegal guns is not only problem. In addition to running for DA this year I prosecuted 2 murders neither involved gun. Weapons are used to kill people not just guns. Need a DA that knows how to win all sorts of cases.
PA: Knows we have part-time people working on this but need to make a priority. Currently the DA’s office is content to wait until something happens but need to be proactive.
Q: examples of proactive
RF: So many. Start with this morning, went to community college to talk with administrators, computer game called “Missing” to teach middle school kids to be safe online. Trying to work with schools to give kids tools they need. Brought school administrators in to talk about safety procedures, brain storm session, identifying kids who are having problems, DA put out safety recommendations. Drug task force work aggressively and proactively with community to identify problems. Drugs and guns often go together. Deal with narcotics aggressively. Just a few examples.
PA: School safety issue. They established a school safety committee, no members of school community on that issue. One meeting with some people from the schools then 13 page report. Wasn’t enough inclusion. Include people from the schools on that committee and let there be back and forth. It has to be a collaborative process. Heard from many in school communities that they were not happy with it.
RF: Not what we did. Invited school communities in to gather feedback. Enormous number of people came. There may have been people who did not participate but we invited everyone. An ongoing process. Have been involved with protection of children for a decade and a half.
Q: situation in Whitemarsh
RF: Earlier incident told people what to do. Last week in Plymouth, it was textbook, people did what they were supposed to. Kid told parents, parents went to police. Once police got it they went to house to check as a proactive measure. In just a few hours complete the investigation and make appropriate arrests.
PA: Certainly in the area of school safety DA’s office needs to supply more information to schools. Provide threat assessment expertise, shown to be a key to stopping school violence, work with schools throughout the process not just one meeting.
PA: We need someone new in the DA’s office willing to recognize problems in Montco. People scared about rise in violent crime. Use experience from army and private practice to focus on gun and violent crime
RF: Role of DA in Montco too important to leave to a novice who has never handled cases in Montco who has never handled a homicide or violent child abuse case. People in Montco have come to expect and deserve a DA who understands problems in our community and has administered office before.