The LuLac Edition #1440, Jan. 17th, 2011
PHOTO INDEX: THE FAMOUS RENDELL BUS, GOVERNOR RENDELL AT HIS LAST PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE CAPITOL MEDIA, TONY ROMEO FROM KYW 1060 AM AND KDKA 1020 AM HAS HIS BACK TO THE PHOTO, FROM LEFT T RIGHT IS R.B. SWIFT FROM TIMES SHAMROCK, AMY WORDEN FROM THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER AND JOHN MICEK FROM THE ALLENTOWN MORNING CALL, (PHOTO FROM CITIZEN'S VOICE) THE SECOND PHOTO IS ME AND ED RENDELL IN 2002 AT STEVE FLOOD'S RALLY AT GENETTI'S IN WILKES BARRE, THE GOVERNOR AND ME AT KING'S GYM IN APRIL OF 2008 AT A HILLARY CLINTON RALLY AND THE BOTTOM PHOTO HAS THE GOVERNOR INTRODUCING THEN SENATOR CLINTON WITH PHILADELPHIA MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER.
ME AND ED
My first working knowledge of Ed Rendell came when I read an article in Philadelphia Magazine about the Mayor who was trying to change the city of Philadelphia. The article chronicled how Rendell lived on Diet Sodas, I always thought they were Pepsi Ones but Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Baer insisted it was not that brand. (Baer was very generous in responding to many e mail when I had questions about the way Ed governed.) Whatever, it was Diet and any guy that lived on 8 of them a day was okay by me.
I next saw Rendell when Philadelphia Sports Legend and broadcaster Richie Ashburn died. I was struck by the way Rendell connected with the grieving audience recounting stories of how he as a youth would live and die with Ashburn’s exploits. As a die hard fan of the ’64 Phillies, I could relate.
During the Al Gore Presidential run in 2000 Rendell seemed to be the only Democrat who had passion for what was an admittedly passionless campaign by the Vice President. Plus Rendell seemed to be the only Democrat jumping up and down in protest when the Bush campaign “lawyered up” in their ultimate success in stealing that election from Gore and the American people.
I was excited when I heard in late 2001 that Rendell was thinking of running for Governor. By December of that year he had TV spots running all over Pennsylvania. Rendell stormed the state with a huge bus with his smiling face plastered all over it. The man had no small ego. I liked that. The conventional wisdom and politicos all got behind Bob Casey, Junior. Very few in LuLac land came out for Ed Rendell. Luzerne County Controller Steve Flood was an early, vocal supporter as well as former Scranton Mayor Jimmy Connors. I actually gave money to Rendell because I thought he represented a new way to do things in the Commonwealth. In April of 2002 Rendell had a rally at Genetti’s in Wilkes Barre. More than 1500 people were there. He entered from the rear of the ball room and made his way to the front. He was magnetic and energetic. The crowd was going crazy. I had not seen this much enthusiasm for a candidate in a very, very long time. I was with my friend, former WARM personality and a former boss of mine Joey Shaver. We both had pictures taken with Rendell. He later inscribed mine with the inscription, “See You in Harrisburg”.
After the election Mrs. LuLac and I received an invitation to the Inaugural Ball. Rendell wore a navy blue tux that night. Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon performed. The event was magical.
A few months later Rendell torked me off big time by reducing the appropriation for libraries. I was so upset I wrote letters to all of the newspapers. But the GOP alternative in the Legislature was no alternative. While Ed annoyed me, I couldn’t stay mad at the guy. I understood why Rendell signed the pay raise bill. In order to pass Legislation, you have to deal with the devils in charge. While Mrs. LuLac no longer had any use for Big Ed after his Library funding cuts, I still did my best to stay objective. I could never get the fact that this "Education Governor" who made early childhood learning such a cause, never fully appreciated the impact libraries have on lifelong learning. If anything, libraries supplement and compliment the educational process. When LuLac came along, I was not afraid to challenge the Governor on things that I thought were out of whack with him like a little more property tax reduction from that gaming revenue.
During the 2008 campaign Rendell worked tirelessly for Hillary Clinton. Our encounter at the King’s Gym was typical Rendell. I asked him if he could get me over to get a photo with Hillary Clinton. Seeing my cane, we tried to navigate the line but even the presence of Ed Rendell couldn’t get me to the former First Lady. Every time we moved, the crowd moved further away. Rendell then waved at a Clinton aide in a beckoning fashion but to his chagrin, they simply waved back. “Jeez, look that! Come here” he yelled. The aide waved back wildly giving the thumbs up sign. Rendell then said, “We’re jammed up, it’s not Hillary but you want a shot with me?” he asked. I didn’t have the heart to tell him, “Ed, I got one already, so I posed again”. A young lady I had commandeered from the crowd took the picture, he shook her hand and asked me if this were my daughter. I said no and he smiled and said, “Maybe we can try again with…….” But by that time Clinton was making her way out of the gym. Rendell and I talked a few minutes more surrounded by a crowd. We spoke of the Eagles post game, Clinton’s chances and the event. I never brought up library funding much to the dismay of Mrs. LuLac.
Rendell’s presence after the general election was more critical than his role as a campaigner. In 2010 he seemed to be the only Democrat who wasn’t running away from the accomplishments of the Obama administration. If only the Professor in Chief had Rendell’s passion perhaps the losses in the House of Representative would not have been so bad.
Rendell’s tenure will be judged by historians as an activist administration. Conservatives will rail against his big check presentations but the way both Wilkes Barre and Scranton look are testaments to his philosophy of government. Rendell felt that government could improve the lives of Pennsylvanians. Like Paul Kanjorski he believed that government could play a good role in the lives of everyday citizens. Along the way he stepped on toes, lost his temper, made some gaffes, and like most politicians bent the truth. But there were no scandals in his administration. He went about his job like a man enjoying the role that was bestowed upon him by the voters. All the while he spoke his mind. During the 2008 Presidential campaign he was asked by C SPAN’S Brian Lamb on whether he would ever want to be the Vice Presidential nominee. Rendell said, “That won’t happen. I am incapable of not commenting and speaking my mind. I don’t want the responsibility of having something I said to impact the chance of someone becoming President. I’ve always been responsible for my own candidacy, my own comments, my own mind. Eight years as District attorney, eight years as Mayor and God willing eight years as Governor. I’m my own guy and when I say something, it’s on me”. No matter what you say about Ed Rendell, he not only knew his own mind but he knew himself. He was wildly entertaining, maddening as hell when you disagreed with him but every day he marched into that Governor’s mansion and did what he thought he needed to do. History will judge if he helped or hurt the State. But for now, Ed, it’s been a blast!
TIMELINE FOR RENDELL
Milestones in the tenure of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell:
- May 2002: Wins Democratic gubernatorial primary, defeating state Auditor General Bob Casey by a landslide.
- November 2002: Handily defeats Republican state Attorney General Mike Fisher in the conclusion of a campaign in which Rendell raised and spent more than $40 million, a record that still stands.
- January 2003: Takes oath as Pennsylvania's 45th governor.
- March 2003: Signs a bare-bones state budget approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature, but strikes $4 billion in public school subsidies to use as leverage to gain support for his ambitious "Plan for a New Pennsylvania" that calls for increasing the income tax and legalizing slot machine gambling at racetracks to improve public schools and cut property taxes.
- July 2003: Signs bill allowing most motorcyclists 21 and older to ride without helmets.
- December 2003: Releases the school-subsidy money as part of a $1 billion deal that includes a 10 percent income-tax boost and $258 million in new education spending.
- March 2004: The Philadelphia Daily News reports Rendell's state police-chauffeured car is clocked at speeds of more than 100 mph nine times in four months. Rendell promises it would not happen again.
- July 2004: Signs a bill authorizing 61,000 slot machines at 14 sites to pump $1 billion annual into property-tax cuts, after more than a year of discussions with the Legislature.
- July 2004: Co-chairs the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
- May 2005: Voters approve Rendell's proposed $625 million bond issue for environmental protection and land preservation.
- May 2005: Eighty percent of Pennsylvania school boards refuse to participate in the Act 72 property-tax relief program set up to distribute the slot-machine revenues because it would limit local taxing power.
- July 2005: Signs a bill to give pay raises to members of the Legislature, hundreds of judges and some executive branch officials.
- November 2005: Signs the repeal of the pay-raise law, days after a Supreme Court justice is ousted from the bench in election results attributed to voter backlash over the raises.
- June 2006: Signs a new system for distributing slot-machine money earmarked for local property-tax relief, this time requiring school boards to participate.
- November 2006: Wins election to a second four-year term, defeating former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, the Republican nominee, by more than 20 percentage points.
- February 2007: Administration comes under fire for its slow-footed response to a winter storm that leaves hundreds of motorists stranded in their vehicles overnight along a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 78.
- July 2007: Furloughs thousands of state employees for one day because of a political stalemate that delays passage of the state budget. They were later reimbursed for their lost wages.
- February 2008: Signs a bill to overhaul Pennsylvania's antiquated open-records law, which was regarded as one of the nation's weakest. The new law opens more government records to public scrutiny and requires agencies to justify any decision to keep records secret.
- June 2008: Signs a bill banning smoking in most public places and workspaces.
- July 2009: Forces tens of thousands of state workers to temporarily go without some or all of their paychecks on "payless paydays" during a monthlong budget impasse.
- January 2010: Signs a bill allowing Pennsylvania slots casinos to expand into legalized poker, blackjack and other table games.
- November 2010: Republican Tom Corbett elected as Rendell's successor
Strengthened by strategic economic and community investments that rebuilt our economy and added more than 279,000 jobs between January 2003 and September 2008, Pennsylvania was in better shape than other states when the national economic downturn began. Under Governor Rendell’s leadership, Pennsylvania continues to take proactive steps to help businesses, communities and workers through trying financial times.
Minimum Wage Increase
Governor Rendell helped to strengthen Pennsylvania's economy during his first term. Those efforts put the commonwealth in a better position than most states to weather the national economic downturn. In January 2008, Pennsylvania reached an all-time record job count of 5,811,700. To make sure that all Pennsylvanians share in the economic growth, Governor Rendell pushed for a higher minimum wage; the last time the minimum wage increased was 1997.
Thanks to Governor Rendell’s leadership, Pennsylvania is well on the way to providing a high-quality education for every child. Governor Rendell has achieved major progress on all of the commonwealth’s education goals.
On July 13, 2005, Governor Rendell signed into law Growing Greener II, fulfilling his pledge to improve the economic and environmental health of Pennsylvania and bringing to fruition more than a year of aggressive efforts to address some of the state’s most pressing environmental problems.
Property Tax Reformation/Gaming
In 2006, Governor Edward G. Rendell signed legislation that delivered the largest property tax cut in Pennsylvania history — $1 billion annually to Pennsylvania homeowners.
Evidence shows that Pennsylvania has been successful in implementing reforms that are controlling medical malpractice costs and making malpractice insurance more available and affordable for health care providers.
Governor Edward G. Rendell has delivered on his promise to make sure older Pennsylvanians have access to life-sustaining prescription medications.
Associated Press/Governor's Website sources.