The LuLac Edition #2195, September 13th, 2012
THE LATEST LULAC POLL
Here are the results from the latest LuLac poll on the Presidential election. We are doing these twice a month and this is our third effort. Here are the results:
Mitt Romney 50.7
Barack Obama 48.3.
Someone else 1.3
So in this third poll, we revert to the first poll we took in ear;ly August. Obama and Romney were virtually tied in that one. In the second poll, taken before the two conventions and after the Ryan pick, Romney held a 14 point lead. Now after the two conventions, Romney takes a slight lead over Obama. Our next poll will be in a few weeks after the first debate. This is just a snapshot of what LuLac readers are thinking. I think this reaffirms my long standing contention that this race will be closer than most people think.
DEBT: WHO DO YOU BLAME?
The thing about debt is this. No one ever remembers clearly how they got there. No one can pinpoint exactly what they bought or where they went with it. It might be denial but the one thing about debt is this: you almost always have nothing to show for it. The national debt clock at the GOP convention was a joke. A large percentage of the debt comes from the two wars that began under the last Republican administration. (I won’t mention the name of the President because then I’ll be accused of “blaming _ _ _ _ for everything”. ) Plus there were the tax cuts for the wealthy. America never fought one war without raising a tax, yet in the first decade of this century we fought two. And there are some who will argue the point that the loss of American humanity might not have been worth the cost in human terms. I agree that you can’t keep on blaming powers that be in the past for the current situation. You do have to look forward. But it would be irresponsible and foolhardy to not hold those who instigated the situation totally blameless. Debt is something that is also closer to home. Wilkes Barre and Scranton have significant debt and Hazleton is getting there. But perhaps the poster child of debt has to be Luzerne County. It is true that County Manager Bob Lawton has to handle a debt problem. But where did the majority of that debt come from? If you look at the record, the debt was really accumulated in the Skrepenak/Vonderheid administration.
From Gort 42’s article of December 2009:
The good news is there is no new borrowing. The bad news is just about everything else. This year's plan comes in with about $2 million less spending than last year. To get there Commissioner Chair Maryanne Petrilla wants to close Moon Lake Park and the ball fields at the Forty Fort Airport plus all employees are to take 12 furlough days without pay. Commissioner Steve Urban wants 24 furlough days. That will be problematic because it needs agreement from the unions and the row officers. One of the problems with our present form of government is the row officers are not accountable to anyone which hopefully be rectified by the new county charter that will be written by the Government Study Commission. I have to disagree with the Blogfather, I think the unions will cooperate to save as many jobs as they can. The problems we face today are not the fault of the unions but the past administration of the Bond Brothers. The biggest hole in the budget is the more than doubling of debt service from $9.5 million this year to $21.7 million in 2010. Every budget that Greg Skrepenak and Todd Vonderheid with the help of Sam Diaz put together refinanced existing debt and had unrealistic revenues.
Both Commissioners Skrepenak and Vonderheid were not amused when Gort started to refer to them as The Bond Brothers. Things started to get ridiculous in 2005. Perhaps the theme of the Skrepenak / Vonderheid first term was to borrow . . . borrow . . . borrow and take care of as many friends as possible through either making them County employees or doing business with them. 2006 really drove that point home. There was a huge spike in borrowing led by the SWAP with one of Skrepenak’s friends who was one of the County Chief Financial advisors at the time. Bear with me here while I tell you what SWAP was. SWAP was a complicated investment which is basically at the root of the global financial crises. I’m sure Luzerne County officials had no clue the risk involved. It was a way to get through the short term but proved to be hazardous to municipalities and counties that engaged in it.
In 2008 JPMorgan Chase and Co. stopped selling interest-rate swaps to government borrowers in the $2.6 trillion U.S. municipal bond market roiled by an antitrust probe and the near bankruptcy of Alabama's most-populous county.
This SWAP deal was still another land mine that had to be avoided when trying to put together a workable realistic budget. 2007 met opposition with Tim Grier’s challenge of yet another huge borrowing, but after the dust settled, that went through in 2008, was another huge spike. The financial time bomb was set in 2006 and 2007 and hidden in the 2008 budget by the Skrepenak / Vonderheid administration. It wasn’t until midway through 2008, shortly after Tom Pribula was hired, that he alerted the Commissioners that the wheels were about to fall off the bus. The only other borrowings in 2008 and 2009 were to survive and stabilize the financial condition of the County For the first time in since the middle of the last decade, the final months of the year with ample cash to handle all obligations. That did not happen by accident, and the 2009 budget was a realistic plan, as a budget should be, and was delivered. Reassessment, was another expensive and painful project initiated by the previous administration. When completed with the ability to have a positive influence on the County, Mr. Skrepenak changed his mind and wouldn’t support it. Like it or not, we all have to pay for the sins of the past which were caused by others. There was a lost opportunity before the 2011 election. I think that the people in the County were more concerned about defeating Home Rule instead of staying the course with the previous budgets that began after 2008. If the previous administration prior to Home Rule followed the strategy the County would now have a credit rating and would be in a position to actually reduce tax millage. There are many opinions out there that believe the County was blessed that it had a Budget Director with an accounting degree with plenty of experience and the investment licenses, training and experience to get through all the crap in a short period of time to stop the bleeding. Otherwise I believe the County would have possibly gone the municipal bankruptcy route, which I believe would have been the first county in PA to do so. Cities have, but the state really didn’t want to step in with a county.
The current task facing the county is daunting. But no one can ignore the bridge between the irresponsible refinancing of the debt and what Lawton faces today. When Tom Pribula was hired in April of 2008 he faced a budget deficit in excess of $20 million (expenses exceeded revenue by something like $23 million as presented in the unfunded debt hearing to Judge Lokuta). Lawton has to deal with a mere $2 million. How soon everyone forgets the monumental task Pribula and the County Commissioners who hired him at the time faced with no support and the turnaround from “Skrep/Diaz finance”. If you take a look at this closely, Lawton is blessed to have inherited what he did, far from perfect but night and day from what Pribula faced in 2008.
I’m only bringing this up because debt and “concern about future generations” is an easy sound Debt sound bite.The County's situation is not as precarious as the nation's but the comparison is timely. It is easy to be for reducing the debt. Debt is like the old saying about having a million fathers when it pays for things (like jobs for friends) and an orphan when the bills come due. I’m all for some sort of national budget deficit reduction plan. And I think there needs to be cost cutting in the County. But when we are working on these two efforts, we should remember how we got here.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
If you think events at the University of Scranton are just for students you'll want to make sure you watch ECTV Live during the week of September 17th. Hosts Tom Munley and Davoid DeCosmo will welcome Cheryl Boga and Stan Zygmunt of "The U" to outline a series of activities and cultural performances that will be open to the public during the Fall semester Free Of Charge! ECTV Live can be seen on Comcast Ch19 each day at Noon and Midnight. 6pm showings are also offered several days each week as the broadcast schedule allows. Two other series hosted and produced by DeCosmo, "People, Places and Things" and "Travel Time" are also offering new programs on Electric City Television. "Edgerton, the Ghost Town" is the story of a small coal mining community that disappeared from Lackawanna County in the early 1900's. The newest "Travel Time" segment features a tour of some of our most beatuiful National Parks. You can check the current Electric City program schedule by searching the web for ectvschedule.
As part of its extensive Election 2012 coverage, the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) is partnering with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA) to bring LIVE coverage of a debate between the three candidates vying for the state Auditor General position in November. Democratic candidate and state Representative Eugene DePasquale; Republican candidate and state Representative John Maher and Libertarian candidate Betsy Summers will take questions from a panel of PLCA representatives during the debate hosted at the Widener University School of Law. PCN will air the event LIVE on Friday, September 21 beginning at 7:00 p.m. PCN President and CEO, Brian Lockman, will moderate for the evening. The debate, which will take place in room A180 of the Law School Administration Building on Widener University’s Harrisburg campus, will be open to the public. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. The Harrisburg campus of Widener University School of Law is located at 3800 Vartan Way in Harrisburg.
This Week on Sunday Magazine. Brian Hughes speaks with NASCAR legend Terry Labonte and Dr. Steven Lamb about the 5 things men should look out for in protecting their health as part of their “Drive For 5” campaign. Brian speaks with Karin Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program about the nutritional value of apples for the fall. And Brian speaks with travel guru Chris McGuiness about the best travel deals Sunday Magazine, Sunday morning at 5am on Great Country 93.7, 5:30am on 97BHT, 6am on 97.9X, 6:25am on Magic 93, and 7am on True Oldies 590, WARM.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVEThis week Shadoe Steele hosts “Saturday Night Live At the Oldies” on WILK AM and FM. The show airs from 7pm to midnight with ABC News on the top of the hour. This week's guest is head comedy writer for the Smothers Brothers and the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and "Classical Gas" guy Mason Williams.
1967Jim Morrison and The Doors defy CBS censors on The Ed Sullivan Show, when Morrison sings the word "higher" from their #1 hit Light My Fire, despite having been asked not to. • – Love Is a Many Splendored Thing debuts on U.S. daytime television and is the first soap opera to deal with an interracial relationship. CBS censors find it too controversial and ask for it to be stopped, causing show creator Irna Phillips to quit.
In Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer says that the Republican party might be in a very good position to register substantial gains in the 1968 Presidential election year. Shafer points to growing division about the Johnson administration Vietnam War policy. Shafer said he did not have a favorite Presidential candidate but was leaning toward his neighbor to the north, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller as his choice if Rocky made the race………………………..PP&L announces plans to build a nuclear plant at its Susquehanna River site in Salem Township and 45 years ago the number 1 song in LuLac land and America was “To Sir With Love” from the movie of the same name by English pop star LuLu who also appeared in the movie.