The LuLac Edition #1926, January 31st, 2012
New County Board appointee, Bruce Simpson of Wilkes Barre.
Florida winner Mitt Romney on the night of his big win.
COUNCIL VOTES FOR HIKE
The County Council forged a type of compromise tonight voting for a 2 and ½ per cent tax hike to get the budget in line. That means the number of Luzerne County government layoffs will be reduced from an estimated 106 to 56 Republican Harry Haas and Democrat Elaine Maddon Curry reconsidered based on further analysis of the impact of cuts. I understand Manager Tom Pribula sent new budget figures to managers this morning based on the expectation that council would raise some sort of taxes. Other Council members who were realistic and said they were going to pass the budget in addition to Haas and Maddon Curry were Jim Bobeck, Tim McGinley, Linda McClosky Houck and Eugene Kelleher. So it appears that the new County Council and its new manager will not have their hands tied and be able to reduce the debt, fund vital county programs, keep the Courts from filing a lawsuit for money and be able to have some breathing room. If more revenue comes in, that’s all to the good.
Now a few words though about what this really means. This in no means should be interpreted as an endorsement of the behavior of the County unions. In my opinion they have done nothing to deserve the break they got. With this new plan, there will not be 150 layoffs but 56. Was there a hint of gratitude from the union President? Nope, all she was bitching about was the 56 jobs being eliminated, not the 100 saved. Some of the comments on WBRE TV too were over the top. Art Boubouine was stated as saying that the atmosphere at the Courthouse was “morbid.” Really Art? Layoffs are a tough thing to go through but last I heard they haven’t killed anybody. And Attorney Jim McMonagle who I almost cast a vote for judge the last time around (thank God for all those female Democrats running last year) was speaking about people making $21,000 a year. He’s right, those people will get fired while some of the union cronies will stay on. The fact is there has been no talk of unions letting employees contribute to health care or making any concessions. I would hope that after the County Budget is adopted and things settle in with a new manager, that a performance audit be done in every single department of the Courthouse. Despite the hand ringing of the unions, there are ways to make things more efficient. But that will most likely come from the County Manager and not the unions.
On public safety, I’ve already heard partisans say that if not for the newly installed District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis’ letter to the editor and news media appearances on WNEP TV and WBRE TV speaking about public safety, that there would be no tax increase. We are told “she saved the day”. Uh no. The credit for this goes directly to Council members who used common sense and good judgement. They did what good government people put them there to do: make tough decisions. To those who voted for the tax increase on Council , you will hear from “the tax crazies” in Luzerne County who spout words like “transparency” and “keeping an eye on the money”. Remember who won the last election (you) and those who were soundly repudiated (them).
Bruce Simpson was named to the County Ethics Board along with Professor Margarita Rose, Ph.D., professor of economics, King’s College. County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis, Controller Walter Griffith, and the county manager make up the rest of the ethics board. Presumably the ethics committee will use the same standard the Supreme Court used in regard to pornography in the 70s when they couldn’t define porn but would know it when they saw it. Same with ethics, they’ll know it when they see it and certainly recognize it when it is not there. Especially in Luzerne Coiunty. They might need HazMat suits.
ROMNEY GETS WIN
Mitt Romney romped to a very large victory in Florida tonight. Buoyed by early voting when he was riding on a New Hampshire high, the businessman/Governor scored an impressive victory over former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum pulled in a respectable third and Ron Paul finished last. The significant thing about Floria is this: it is a true reflection of the Republican party because it is a closed primary. Unlike the Iowa and New Hampshire, only registered Republicans can vote. Plus Florida is a broad based stater in terms of demographics and income levels. It is said that “Florida is the state where people from everywhere come to settle”. The winner-take-all primary was worth 50 Convention delegates, the biggest prize of any state so far. Remember folks, it’s all about the delegates. However the bigger opportunity was political momentum in the race to pick an opponent to spar with Barack Obama this fall. About half of Florida primary voters said the most important factor for them was backing a candidate who can defeat Obama in the general election. In a state with an unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, the Sunshine state voters said the economy was their top issue. More than 8 in 10 said they were falling behind or just keeping up. And half said that home foreclosures have been a major problem in their once booming towns. The move from the early voting states to Florida saw an increase in negative attack ads and a surge in campaign spending. Negative ads accounted for 92% of political ads airing in Florida over the last week -- a record rate for political campaigns, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising content and spending. Romney spent more than 17 million dollars in Florida on ads.
For the next month there are no debates scheduled and no primary contests either. The next caucus state will be in Nevada next Saturday. Most likely the two leading candidates, Romney and Gingrich will reinforce the identity of their campaigns. Romney will continue to build his ground game and try to shake loose some endorsements. Gingrich should try to get a game plan together for the next wave of primary states. Those states are in the South and should be friendly to the former Speaker. However, there will be great pressure to have Gingrich give up which is something he said he will not do.
During the month of February you are going to see two halves of the Republican party pitted against each other. The establishment wing will be touting Romney but they better be more forthcoming in their support. It is telling that Romney got very few endorsements even as he was on the upswing in Florida while Gingrich snared Herman Cain and Sarah Palin as supporters. The Conservative wing is going to try and use Gingrich as their stand against the establishment that picked John McCain the last time out. What I don’t understand is the fact that Rick Santorum, who on paper is everything the Conservative wing of the party wants and preaches is not getting the nod. Gingrich is a divisive figure, Santorum is not. It appears the right wing of the GOP would rather go down in flames with Gingrich than present a viable conservative, family values alternative with Santorum.
The final result of the so far bruising primary season is that Romney and Gingrich are beating the snot out of each other. Ron Paul is cracking wise on the sidelines and Rick Santorum is wagging a finger at all of them like a disgruntled school marm left outside of the barn dance. The next month the GOP better reach a consensus on a candidate and a strategy. It is not enough to say “we need to beat Obama”. Someone has to emerge with a game plan on how to do that. Meanwhile for the next 30 days, all the campaigns will go to ground and reformulate strategies to get this thing over with quickly. If the race slogs on until the convention, the candidates we now see front and center might be relegated to the background and someone not on the radar just might emerge.
But for tonight, Mitt Romney has to savor this win. The victory proved just how efficient the Romney machine can be. And if there are glitches or fixes there’s always money to take care of that issue,