The LuLac Edition #1338, Oct. 20th, 2010
PHOTO INDEX: "WRITE ON WEDNESDAY" LOGO.
WRITE ON WEDNESDAY
HOME RULE YES
This week we feature two articles on "Write On Wednesday" that are pro Home Rule. The first is a Letter To the Editor from a citizen activist, Mike Giamber, the second from an article by Kevin Blaum.
Are you ready for another property tax increase? County budget hearings are scheduled to begin later this month. Information derived from reliable sources projects an aggregate $18 million funding shortfall for 2011. However, after negotiations with cost center managers, the shortfall should be much less. The question is, how much less? All indications suggest another tax increase is in the making for 2011. Of course our minority commissioner will play the good guy voting "no" for any tax increase knowing full well that the two majority commissioners will have no choice but to vote "yes" or borrow more money to balance the budget.
However, there is a solution to higher taxes. Cut back on lucrative, sometimes obscene, benefits packages; say no to the court's request for yearly budget increases, if they want to sue, let them; automate some of the archaic redundant labor intensive administrative functions; make employees come to work and leave on time. I can go on, but you get the point.
In case the commissioners haven't noticed, the taxpayers are tapped out. Uncontrolled borrowing to the tune of $465 million, conducting a suspect $8 million dollar property reassessment, 10 percent property tax hike in 2009 and 15 percent in 2010 have done us in. But wait, there's more. Get ready for 2011.
Had enough? Did you know that we're spending $65,000/day in interest payments alone on money the commissioners borrowed to balance the budget? Our credit rating is in the toilet which means lending institutions won't refinance to a lower interest rate, adding insult to injury.
If you had enough, then vote "yes" for home rule this November. You can't afford not to.
IN THE ARENA KEVIN BLAUM
Opponents of a new constitution for Luzerne County came out in a trickle Tuesday night, gathering at the Woodlands Inn & Resort, in Plains Township, to launch their campaign to defeat the latest citizen effort to change county government for the better.
From all reports it was a sad spectacle. The Times Leader reported about 35 people showed up, and the article pointed out that “many attending stand to be affected in some way should the charter pass.”
While the sparse turnout is uncharacteristic of a savvy political organization, don’t be fooled. This crowd, in and out of the courthouse, is capable of producing a couple hundred cheering fans on any given night, as needed.
Political opponents of Luzerne County’s proposed home rule charter want county government to remain intact. For them, this is very serious business. They will raise all the money they can to sink this charter and crush the new reform government it seeks to establish.
Most will not surface at staged meetings, open to the public, in area hotel ballrooms. Nearly all will remain under the radar when it comes to their unyielding opposition to improve county government. Few wish to be identified as opposing that which is so obviously necessary for the community good — a complete overhaul of county government.
Last week opponents of reform showed you but the tip of their fast moving iceberg set to a collision course with the people’s ship of hope — a new charter and government for Luzerne County residents.
The only meaningful thing put forward by charter political opponents was their plan, long predicted here, to form a political campaign committee to accumulate and expend money on media advertising to defeat your new constitution.
They will raise a fortune to beat you.
Understand, supporters of the home rule charter are, and will be, completely outgunned. While they are making presentations, talking policy and supporting a new reform government to improve our region, defenders of the status quo will be carpet bombing the airwaves with 30-second commercials attempting to rip reform and reality to shreds. But don’t be fooled.
Go to The Times Leader’s website, click on the Home Rule icon and check out the proposed charter: “Report and Recommended Home Rule Charter for Luzerne County.”
Read how it abolishes a system of county government with no checks and balances, where all legislative and executive power rests in the hands of two majority commissioners. Read how the charter eliminates all elected row office positions except those of district attorney and county controller.
Notice that it vests all legislative power in the hands of an 11-member county council, elected by the people, to staggered four-year terms. You will elect six council members one year, five two years later, and more residents will have a chance of being elected.
This citizen council will then do a national search and choose an experienced, professional manager who is qualified to run the day-to-day affairs of a county. This council-manager form of government is used widely throughout the United States. Immediately upon the selection of a manager, your new constitution erects a de facto firewall to maintain the manager’s independence from council.
Imagine a county executive who did not have to solicit or accept campaign contributions to get there. Imagine a county executive free to do his or her job without accepting calls and requests from contributors. Imagine a county ethics board, term limits and a strict prohibition on council involvement in hiring. Imagine your vote can make it happen.
We “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”