Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Boscola v. PPL (Part II)

Yesterday I told you about State Senator Lisa Boscola's flip-flop on electricity deregulation. Back in 1996 then-State Rep. Boscola voted for for the bill which allowed electricity deregulation and the rate caps which are set to expire in the next few years. Now, State Senator Boscola is the head cheerleader leading the opposition to the expiration of these rate caps.

Today I am going to tell you how PPL contributes to the campaigns of state reps and senators, including Boscola

PPL has a PAC. It is called the PPL Good Government Committee (aka PPL for Good Government).

Since 2001, they have given $4,600 to Boscola, which is really nothing for this PAC. Although, I am not sure what that money got them except a public hearing with the PUC in south Bethlehem last week. Not really money well spent. (Note: Campaign Finance records are not online for the time period of 1995-1996, I would have liked to see what kind of money PPL gave Boscola during the time the deregulation bill was pending.)

In their latest filing with the Department of State, PPL had $136,239.71 available to them, and gave away $49,224.57.

They get their money from their employees. Their contributions are deducted from their paychecks. That is why the majority of the contributions are number like $13.46 and $20.67.

In the most recent filing, the following local representatives and senators received money from this PAC.
(Push or scroll over to see the contribution amount)
ALLENTOWN,&nbspPA &nbsp18105

BETHLEHEM,&nbspPA &nbsp18015

SELLERSVILLE,&nbspPA &nbsp18960

BETHLEHEM,&nbspPA &nbsp18015

BREININGSVILLE,&nbspPA &nbsp18031

BREININGSVILLE,&nbspPA &nbsp18031

KUTZTOWN,&nbspPA &nbsp19530

SELLERSVILLE,&nbspPA &nbsp18960

HARRISBURG,&nbspPA &nbsp17108

The complete list of the PPL PAC's contributions for the latest reporting period can be found here

Now, I am a busy man and do not have time to research voting records and additional contributions(I barely have time to write a blog), however I am going to watch to see how the above legislators vote on bills concerning PPL in the future.

If any one wants to look at PPL's People for Good Government's other finance reports, they are linked here.

I am not trying to cause trouble for any of these elected officials. I like some of these guys. I am just trying to shed light on this problem. Regular people do not have this type of influence on their elected officials. Companies like PPL all have PACs donating to campaigns and all have expensive lobbyists working for them.. One thing we citizens cannot forget is that elected officials work for us. The little guy still has a voice on election day! I am not saying all these officials are engaging in pay to play, I just want to raise awareness. A well-informed electorate is a dangerous thing!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Boscola v. PPL.

I am admittedly a bad blogger. I go months without updates and really stink at this. I am no Bernie O'Hare...few are.

However, sometimes I get information passed to me, for some reason some Democratic Committee person likes me.

This person sent me an email telling me that Boscola is a hypocrite. Apparently, when she was a State Representative from Bethlehem, the seat currently held by Steve Samuelson, she voted for Bill 1509 back in 1996. Bill 1509 was the bill that allowed for the deregulation of electricity. It has been in the news recently since the rate caps it created are set to expire in 2010 and PPL wants to get a jump start on charging people more later this year.

I am cannot offer confirmation that Boscola voted for the bill. Two sources have told me she did. However, I cannot find her voting record online.

While I agree with Boscola and think the rate caps should be extended, I believe Boscola should have thought about the impact on her constituents back in 1996. Now she is being trumpeted as a saint who is standing up to a big bad corporation and will be re-elected in a landslide in a few years. The truth is that she is really an opportunistic hypocrite who takes opposing sides of the same issue when it is convenient for her. Boscola helped cause this problem, now she wants to offer solutions to it, sounds hypocritical to me.

(Next time I will explore PPL's PAC's contributions to local politicians....Boscola is on that list!)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bethlehem City Council Update

1. City Council approved the Five Points traffic plan at Tuesday's meeting with 5-1 vote. This is not a surprise. The only opposition it faced on council was Mike Schweder, who ended up voting for it, Jean Belinski, who voted against it, and Jay Leeson, who was absent from the meeting.

You can read about it here.

My take: Something needed to be done about the traffic in that area. This plan of one-way roads seems to be the best plan suggested. I am not sure why it will take from April 2009 through December 2009 to turn some roads from two-way to one-way, but that is the timetable.

2. The City Council Recreation Committee, which consists of council members Belinski, Schweder and William Reynolds, had meeting this week. They are changing the use permits for the city's little league teams to use the city's fields. The permits were all terminated in December, so the city could make changes. As you may recall, Lehigh Little League and the Bethlehem Blue Mountain League team were involved in a few tussles regarding the use of a field at the City's Monocacy fields. One of the proposed changes include the city collecting fees from teams to use fields, instead of the local little league. A little league will have use of the field for $1 per year. A team wanting to use the field would pay the City $150.00, who would give that money to the Little League to pay for maintenance and lights.

Another change, proposed by Reynolds, would be to have the organizations submit their financial statements to the city earlier. Currently little league and other organizations submit their financial statements by March 31st, the change would move that to the middle of February. The change would allow more time for the city to make sure the fees, collected by the City and given to the little leagues, are being properly spent once they get to the little league.

You can read more about it here.

My take: It is about time that City Council steps in a regulates these little leagues and the control they have over the public fields. These leagues were profiting from charging other teams huge fees to use the fields, and the little leagues get to use the fields for nothing. I will admit that the little leagues do maintenance and pay for the electricity for the fields, but the profits they were making were ridiculous.

3. Council Meetings will now begin at 7:00 pm, instead of 7:30 pm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Politics As Usual In Bethlehem

Last evening the City Finance Committee approved by a 2-1, to send Council President Michael Schweder's plan how to spend the casino host fee to full Council at their December 4th meeting. The finance committee consists of Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Chairman, Jean Belinksi and Robert J. Donchez.

The Morning Call has an account here, and Express Times here.

Schweder's plan includes using 0ne-half the host fee of 8.7 million to cut property taxes, the other half would be used to hire 20 police officers, 10 firemen, 6 paramedics and 2 inspectors. The remaining money, estimated by Schweder at around 2 million, would be placed in a restricted fund only to be spent as authorized by Council.

The problems with Schweder's plan:

1. The City will not get the money until after the casino opens, estimated to be July, 2009, so how can he decide how to spend it now.
2. Schweder's numbers were not based on anything but his own imagination. He never spoke with the Department heads and never conducted a study. He arbitrarily chose the number of police, fire, paramedics and inspectors.
3. It is foolish for a City that is admittedly in debt and has to borrow from itself to pay bills, to cut property taxes. That is just asking for trouble down the road.

The real story:

Schweder is trying get his plan through council while he still has the votes to get it passed. Currently, Schweder has the four votes needed to pass the bill with Szabo, Leeson and Belinski. In January, William Reynolds joins council and voiced concerns over spending the money prematurely and using to cut taxes. He urged a wait and see approach that was similar to what Mowrer and Donchez said. They are not against cutting taxes but those decisions can not be made now.

As someone posted on the forums, if Schweder is successful in getting his legislation passed, which he probably will be, he will force Callahan to veto it. Schweder does not have enough votes to override the veto, and by that time Reynolds will be on Council, so Schweder will not even have the votes to get the legislation passed again.

Then if Schweder decides to run for Mayor, he can attack Callahan for vetoing a tax cut resolution.

This whole mess is just some Dem on Dem Politics, and gets J. Michael Schweder into the DINO Club!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Post-Election Thoughts

Some Post-Election Thoughts:

The Bethlehem City Controller Race: Republican Meg Holland defeating Democrat Dave DiGiacinto may be the most shocking result. I thought Meg would lose. I am glad the voters looked at more than R and D behind their names and looked at the substance of the candidate. Once they did that, it was a clear choice. Some may try to spin this race as a referendum on the Old Guard losing their grip in Bethlehem. It may be, but I would not go that far yet. I think Schweder just picked the wrong guy to run for Controller.

The Bethlehem City Council Race: The voters gave Bob Donchez and Gordon Mowrer another term, which was a good thing. They are the most rational and steady individuals on council. J. William Reynolds joins them as the voters elected him to be the youngest councilman in the history of Bethlehem. Reynolds worked hard in the primary to unseat incumbent Maggie Szabo, which was another blow to the Old Guard in the City. Reynolds is the aide to popular State Rep. Steve Samuelson and we the voters can only hope that Reynolds will follow the example his boss has set. Note to Reynolds: We are watching young man, do not screw up!

Lehigh County Commissioners: The voters elected 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats. The Republicans will still hold control of the board. Andy Roman was the lone incumbent seeking to keep his seat and was re-elected. Fellow GOPer Dean Browning joins him. Gloria Hamm and Bill Leiner are the two Democrats who will join the board. While the Republicans maintain control, it is not as bad as it appears. Cunningham has been able to work with the Republicans in the past and I am sure that he will in the future.

Northampton County Council: Unfortunately for Joe Long, the Republicans gained a seat, which may be fortunate for the taxpayers. Voters rejected more of Tony Branco in the changed Council at large seat.

Northampton County Controller: Voter’s showed their desire of having a full-time Controller by narrowly electing Stephen Barron. Hopefully, Stephen lives up to the expectations. Time will tell if the County needs a full-time Controller, if it does hopefully the Charter can be changed to pay him like a full-timer.

Lehigh County Row Offices: Democrats sweep. No real surprises except in the Controller race where the incumbent Peter Shaffer lost to Tom Slonaker in a close one.

Local Judges: Barrata and Steinberg were retained in landslide votes. Republican Jim Anthony took third in the Lehigh County Judicial Race over Dan McCarthy. Personally, I thought McCarthy would win, since Anthony had previously lost when he ran a few years ago. Anthony joins fellow winners District Judge Michelle Varrichio, who gets a seat on the big bench, and Maria Dantos, who is already sitting on the big bench.

UPDATE: Slonaker has apparently lost his bid to unseat Shaffer as Lehigh County Controller. I relied on,0,3412390.story for my information...but it is now wrong. The has Shaffer with a 99 vote lead and has a 78 vote lead for Shaffer. I thought both men were well-qualified for the post and thought both would do a good job.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Controller Race Update

The Bethlehem Controller race is winding down.

Here is the latest:

1. Maureen Holland-Schaeffer, Meg Holland's daughter, has posted a comment on a previous post, which I feel deserves some attention. Her comment is her mother's response to a letter to the editor which was published in the Express-Times on November 3, 2007. The letter questions Holland's mailer which states the budget in the City is $121 million. The writer states the correct amount is $58 million. Holland's explanation is as follows:

"In Mr. Horwath’s letter to the editor on November 3, 2007 he stated that the city budget of $121 million as reported in my campaign mailers was off by $63 million. The City of Bethlehem budget is $121 million, which I detail below.

Operating Budget (in millions)
General Fund 58.523
Water 18.000
Sewer 11.931
Golf 1.400
911 1.898
Total Operating Budget 91.752

Capital Budget (in millions)
Non-utility 13.650
Water 4.392
Sewer 3.211
Community 6.930
Liquid Fuels 1.417
Total Capital Budget 29.600

Total City Budget = $121.352

Unfortunately Mr. Horwath was only informed of the General Fund budget. The Controller’s job is the “watchdog” of all city accounts, therefore, only considering the General Fund budget would be incorrect.

Meg Holland CPA/ABV, CIA, CVA, CFE"

Fortunately, for the people of the City of Bethlehem someone with an expertise in accounting and the knowledge of the City's budget is running for Controller. The choice is clear, Meg Holland is the best candidate for City controller.

2. I saw this article on the Bethlehem Daily Start blog on The Morning Call website. Instead of raising taxes, Mayor Callahan tapped into the Sewer Hook Up fee payment that Bethworks/Sands paid early. It is $1.7 million. He moved the money to the General Fund to cover payroll, medical expenses and worker's compensation. The fee, which was instituted by Callahan 2 years, is paid by developers. So the City is using money that was paid early and is not needed now, and will be repaid before it is needed.

Dave DiGiacinto's, the Democratic candidate for controller, endorser Republican Alan Blair, the interim Controller, does not think it is legal and says it is a bad idea.

Apparently Blair would rather layoff workers and raise taxes, than have the City borrow from itself and pay itself back with interest after the beginning of the year.

I think there may be a better way to take care of the City's year end cash flow problem but do not think layoffs and raising taxes is the answer and until a better solution comes around borrowing from itself is the best solution.

An interesting discussion on the Controller race follows the Daily Star article in the reader comments.

I hope the City residents do the right thing tomorrow and elect Meg Holland to be City Controller. She is the only candidate who is ethically bound to be impartial because she is the only candidate who is a CPA.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bethlehem City Republican Committee Gets Active; City Council Candidate fails to disclose contribution

This evening I received an email from a person who wishes to remain anonymous. I will respect this person's wishes. I am allowed to tell you that this person is a Democratic Committeeperson from Bethlehem.

This person passed along two tidbits of information to me.

1. Meg Holland, the Republican candidate for City Controller, was asked by the Bethlehem City Republican Committee to remove signs from her yard showing her support for Democratic candidates. I was informed that one of the signs was a J. William Reynolds for City Council sign. Bernie O'hare acknowledged in a post earlier this week that Meg was also supporting Democratic NorCo Controller Candidate Stephen Barron with a sign in her front yard.

Meg Holland complied with the request. The signs were removed as of this evening.

2. Earlier this week, the Morning Call reported that little money is being spent in the City Council race. Republican Candidate Esther Lee reported on her expense report that she had a campaign budget on zero dollars. If you drive around the city, you will notice that Esther Lee has campaign signs scattered throughout the city. My anonymous emailer tells me that "if you look closely, her signs are paid for by the Bethlehem City Republican Committee."
My anonymous emailer states "this is an in-kind contribution that must be reported by the candidate or the candidate's authorized committee."
I verified that the signs are paid for by the City Republican Committee tonight when I took my dog for a walk, and I believe the Morning Call's reporting is accurate. I would think that Esther Lee would know about campaign finance reports requirements after all the attempts at office she made in the past.

It is nice to see the Republican Committee active in the City. I would hope that they would have their candidates worry about the accuracy of their finance reports, rather than concern themselves with which signs are in one of their candidates yards.