Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Local Races and the Press

This may be fun. I’d like to offer another perspective to Morning Call Bill White’s column about local candidates and races. So here goes: My own absence of local candidate’s debate.

The local newspapers have been complaining about the lack of candidates in the upcoming Primary races. In fact, there are even school boards without enough candidates to fill open seats. Yes, this is a real problem. Ever hopeful, I believe there are folks who will step-up to the plate and mount write-in campaigns.

Non-incumbents run for local offices with various degrees of success. As one of them, I know first hand that one of the toughest aspects of running for local office is getting press coverage, any press coverage.

The Morning call, (yes I am challenging the Morning Call’s coverage) provides good coverage of incumbents. Incumbents have a convenient platform to express opinions - there they sit, IN office. Why is it so hard to ask candidates their opinions on critical issues? Many times, reporters and candidates are only feet apart - in the same room - at a municipal meeting.

So, who has filled the void of covering local races? Bloggers! Bill White has stated most of the bloggers lack the skill sets of a journalist to create creditable news. On March 19, 2009, he wrote, “Still, they don't have the readership, journalistic training or resources that we do at the Valley's largest newspaper. Our responsibility as a watchdog is indispensable to our mission, which is one reason you should hope we don't disappear, even if you're mad at me or the paper in general” I will give Bill this point. However, in the void of Fourth Estate news about local races, interested voters will seek out more information. This is precisely where bloggers play a vital role.

Most new candidates are lucky to get seven to nine lines in some general article covering a specific local race. Okay, the County and Judge candidate’s get lots of coverage, but coverage for local races in the townships and boroughs is limited at best. And, in some case the coverage has been non-existent.

Here is my challenge to the Morning Call editorial board: Give the local candidates on-going opportunities to comment on critical issues facing their municipalities. Ask them questions! I am sure they will be more than happy to provide their views on the issues.

Whether the candidate is challenger or incumbent, it will, at the very least, give voters a better understanding of candidates’ positions. Informed voters are better voters are they not?

Get Involved! Every Vote Counts!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Open Government Matters

As we enter the campaign season, it is critical we start to talk about various issues that need to be debated in the upcoming weeks.

In the past year or two, we have had many situations where the public expressed grave concerns about the transparency of the decision making process and the availability of critical information to the public on how various decisions were made. The public can express their concerns by speaking out at local government meetings, writing letters to the editor, or by taking their grievances to court.  It is hard to imagine a greater trust between a local official and the public, than the promise of open and honest government.  This trust is a bond that enables the public to maintain faith in it's public institutions. 

I understand it is hard to practice open government.  The process is time consuming and may lead to public disagreements. But this is the nature of the beast.

I believe in each of these situations the affected local governments could have avoided these situations by practicing open government. By being open with the public, by providing relevant information about the facts surrounding the decision, and taking the time to actually listen and understand the public input.  If the decision involved a specific person, then the privacy of that person needs to be honored, but the process used to make the decision needs to be shared with the public.

We need to remember that being a public official is not about meeting our needs, but meeting needs of the community. These are the people who have a placed a scared trust in us to make the best decisions possible. 

Get Involved! Every Vote Counts

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thank you John Castrovinci


At the last Planning Commission meeting, Planner John Castrovinci submitted his resignation. John cited his work as the Easton Area School District Human Resources Director as a factor in his decision to resign.

I would like to take this time to express my appreciation for his hard work and dedication to our community. You will be missed!

Get Involved! Every Voice Counts!

Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 Forks Election

I am looking forward to a robust and intense debate about the critical issues facing Forks Township in the upcoming May Republican Primary. As we enter a new era in politics and uncertain economic times, it is critical that we elect those who have the courage and leadership skills to create innovative solutions to these new challenges.

In Forks Township, we need to maintain critical public services with updated infrastructure that supports our growth. We need to preserve open space. We need to elect candidates who have a deep breadth of knowledge about our community, and who can build a smarter government.

It is critical that newly elected members of the Forks Township Board of Supervisors have hands-on, in depth working knowledge of the many diverse issues facing the township.

Forks is a growing township, a township in the midst of legal battles to preserve its rural character. More often than not, Supervisors are faced with many critical needs decisions. These needs are an integral part of our quality of life equation.

I look forward to the debate and especially to meeting all of my neighbors while on the campaign trail.

Get Involved - Every Voice Counts!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Open Government at work

Last Saturday, I attend a Land Use workshop at the Penn State Berks campus.   The workshop covered Recent Land Use Court decisions, Linking a Comprehensive Plan with the Municipal budget through Multi-year planning, and Zoning for Alternative Energy.

I would like to focus this blog entry on the presentation made by John Grange, Township Manager, Solebury Township.  The basic concept of his presentation was linking the multi-year township strategic plans  with a multi-year financial  plan. The Solebury Township strategic plan was created and approved with significant public input. All the strategic plans are online for public review and comment. Additionally, the township proactively seeks input from federal agencies, state agencies, local agencies, local scouting groups, local service organizations, local political groups, developers, etc to gain agreement on the strategic plans across various segments of the community.  Finally, the township tracks their progress against the stated goals and publishes the results on township web site.

John outlined the basic process to get community agreement on proposed civic projects:

1. Identify what is important to the community.

2. Determine what you know

3. Determine what you don't know.

4. Prioritize the projects.

5. Get partners

6. Use other people money.

I was very impressed with the level of community involvement and the desire of the Solebury Township public officials to get public input, but more importantly, the desire to gain agreement from the community on proposed civic projects.  As you can see, open government is alive and well in PA.

For additional information, please visit the Solebury Township web site.

Get Involved! Every Voice Counts!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Forks Zoning Laws Rock- KMRD loses again!

Tonight, Solicitor Karl Kline announced at the Forks BoS meeting, the court of Common pleas ruled against the KMRD procedural challenge. The judge ruled the township properly advertised its 2006 zoning ordinance and made copies available to the public. The judge denied the KMRD appeal with prejudice.

This is the second loss for KMRD in the last 5 months. In November 2008,  the court of Common Pleas rejected a KMRD appeal to conduct discovery for all four of the 1986, 1988,2001, and 2006 zoning ordinances. The judge denied this KMRD appeal without  prejudice.

Next up on the docket, is the Substantive Challenge, where KMRD charges Forks Township discriminate against low income housing.  The current KMRD proposal is to built about 3000 apartments, town homes, and mobile homes in the FP district. Yikes!

Get Involved! Every Voice Counts

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jackie Taschner for Magisterial District Judge

Tonight, I was getting a chicken salad at Salavatore's and attending the Easton High School Swimming and Diving booster club meeting. I happened to run into Jackie Taschner, a candidate for District Judge. By the way, the chicken salad was very good.  If elected, she will serve the communities of Tatamy, Palmer, and Forks Townships.

According to the Northampton County web site, Jackie is a Northampton County assistant district attorney and a domestic violence prosecutor.  In her press release, she stated "As an attorney, I have handled all types of cases that come before a magisterial district judge: I have litigated civil and landlord-tenant cases, handled summary trials, and represented the commonwealth and defendants at preliminary hearings at various times throughout my career".

I had a chance to chat with Jackie about her qualifications for District Judge. She stated "her experience as law clerk, assistant public defender, and several years in private practice has developed her sense of fairness and honed her ability to remain neutral when rending judicial decisions". 

She promised to answer a couple of questions about candidacy and I will post her responses in a later blog.

We are going to continue asking candidates questions about their qualifications and why they are running for office.

Get Involved! Every Voice Counts!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Welcome to Forks Township - Riley's Deli

I got the chance to eat lunch at the newest business in Forks Township- Riley's Deli. They opened their doors on February 24, 2009.

I meet the owner Jordan Zahler and his wife.  They are very happy to open new business in our community and are looking forward to meeting the residents of Forks Township. You can find more about Riley's Deli new menu at their new web site. The deli is located in the Sullivan Trial Shopping Center.

I sampled the Reuben sandwich and a diet coke. The food was quite tasty and the service was very good.

Go ahead and visit our new deli. You will not be disappointed!

Get Involved. Every voice counts!